Most Read Contributor in New Zealand, September 2016
The Government is aiming to have the "most
significant overhaul" of the Resource Management Act
(RMA) since the Act's inception 25 years ago
introduced into the House and through the select committee process
before the end of this year.
It only needs the Act Party's vote to push the
legislation through, and it already has that in the bag. However,
the details of the policy are still sketchy and Environment
Minister Nick Smith admits that there is a "power of
work" ahead to finalise and draft the required
Most of the directions outlined in the Minister's
press statement reflect what National was proposing last term.
But the political packaging is now much more in the context of
housing affordability, and the Government's thinking looks to
have moved in some areas.
Purpose & principles
National appears to have pulled back from the proposed Part 2
provisions, which would have stymied the Bill in the previous
Parliament. But it will proceed with four additions to the
management of natural hazards
recognition of the urban environment
the importance of affordable housing, and
provision for appropriate infrastructure.
The Minister has acknowledged that the Part 2 changes will
require "careful drafting" and has said that the previous
proposals will be reviewed "in light of the most recent case
law" (which has to include the recent King Salmon
decision that addressed the issue of 'overall broad
judgement' versus environmental bottom lines).
Streamlined plan making
The reforms will simplify the plan making process and
"provide new and alternative ways of producing good quality
plans". The Minister highlighted the need to pass special
legislation "four times in recent years" to bypass slow
plan making processes and signalled an intention to foster
These comments suggest that the reforms will make a range of
plan making processes available to councils, perhaps based on the
Auckland Unitary Plan, Special Housing Areas and freshwater
collaboration processes. While faster plan making is desirable for
all, new processes bring new challenges – as submitters
involved in the current Auckland and Christchurch plan processes
The Government intends that National Policy Statements and
National Environmental Standards will be finalised and immediately
implemented after a single round of national consultation, backed
up by an instant fine.
Following on from National's election promise, the
Government wants to have a national regulation banning dairy cows
from streams and rivers in place by July 2017. Such regulations
could have immediate and significant effect on existing consent
holders. For example, Dr Smith commented in his speech that it was
ridiculous that a national requirement to fence dairy stock
couldn't be implemented until each farmer's resource
consent came up for renewal.
Most of the changes National proposed in the last term are
expected to be carried into the new Bill, in particular the
requirement on councils to use standard planning templates and an
explicit recognition of private property rights. The thrust of the
reforms is still development friendly.
But a number of provisions proposed in National's last term
were not mentioned by Dr Smith yesterday so their future is
unclear. For the full list, refer to the latest issue of Chapman
Ground Cover publication.
It is too early to judge whether the Bill will live up to the
hype (including in relation to affordable housing) but we will
monitor developments and comment as appropriate.
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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