The Resource Management Reform Bill, designed to speed
subdivision and regional infrastructure projects and to grease the
progress of the Auckland Unitary Plan, was reported back from
select committee on Tuesday and is expected to be passed before the
end of this year.
Most of the committee's proposed changes could be described
as procedural but some are more controversial and will be opposed
by Labour and the Greens.
Amendments to the Resource Management Act 1991
This Bill is very much a first instalment of the
Government's reform agenda for the RMA this term. A far more
radical and far-reaching Bill is currently being prepared for
presentation to the House later this year (see Chapman Tripp's
A key focus of this first Bill is to introduce a six month
consenting procedure for medium sized projects (specifically
including residential subdivisions). The committee has recommended
a number of small changes and clarifications to tidy up this
Other recommendations in relation to the RMA component of the
a provision that, where a council allows direct referral of a
consent application to the Environment Court, the council becomes a
party to the Environment Court proceedings and must be available to
give evidence (we consider that this is sensible and will ensure
that the Court is fully informed of the council's perspective
as it makes its judgment), and
a recommendation that section 32 reports must include reference
to opportunities for economic growth that are "anticipated to
be provided or reduced", rather than those that are expected
to "cease to be available". Labour and the Greens oppose
this amendment, considering that it creates a pro-development bias.
We expect to see further changes along these lines in the second
Unitary Plan provisions
The Local Government (Auckland Transitional Provisions)
Act 2010 gave the Minister for the Environment broad regulatory
powers regarding the preparation of the Unitary Plan.
The committee wants those powers to be trimmed back by:
clarifying that they can be used only to deal with unforeseen
situations or issues which arise regarding the preparation of the
Unitary Plan, and
requiring that the Minister consult with Auckland Council and
the Hearings Panel before recommending any regulations.
Other changes will also reinforce the primacy of the Hearings
Panel (for further information on the Hearing Panel's role, see
here). In particular, the committee proposes that:
the Hearings Panel should have the power in some circumstances
to direct the Auckland Council to initiate a variation to the
Unitary Plan, and
when making its final decisions on the recommendations put to
it by the Hearings Panel, the Auckland Council must not consider
any submission or other evidence which was not first made available
to the Panel.
In addition, the committee proposes that only the owners or
occupiers of land covered by a proposed designation or heritage
order must be directly notified by the Auckland Council. Everyone
else, including neighbours, would have to rely on the general
public notification through the newspaper.
Proposed changes include:
where the Auckland Council amends a provision recommended by
the Hearings Panel, providing a clear right of appeal to the
Environment Court against the effect of the Council's amended
providing for merit-based appeals to the Environment Court in
some circumstances where the Hearings Panel makes a recommendation
that is outside the scope of submissions, and
requiring that where a person is planning to appeal a decision
on a point of law and also to have the decision judicially
reviewed, both proceedings must be lodged together and the High
Court must endeavour to hear them together. The idea behind this
amendment, as with many of the committee's proposed amendments,
is to minimise delays.
Our thanks to Kylie Paine for writing this Brief
The information in this article is for informative purposes
only and should not be relied on as legal advice. Please contact
Chapman Tripp for advice tailored to your situation.
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