The bill implementing the next phase of the government's
'red tape-busting' reforms of key legislation controlling
development and environmental protection was introduced into
Parliament on 26 November 2015. The Resource Legislation Amendment
Bill (Amendment Bill) picks up the thread of
previous rounds started some years ago, to reduce what it sees as
bureaucratic constraints on creating jobs, building housing and
good environmental management. It is promoted by the Minister for
the Environment as providing "greater national consistency,
more responsive planning, simplified consenting and better
alignment with other laws". There are some real procedural
changes, which will affect planning, consenting and land
development activities, but gone is the wholesale realignment of
the legislative purposes that the government previously indicated
As is to be expected, the Resource Management Act (RMA) bears
the brunt of the changes, but the Environmental Protection
Authority Act 2011, the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental
Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012, the Reserves Act 1977, the
Conservation Act 1987 and the Public Works Act 1981 are all
affected to varying degrees as well.
What are the main changes?
The proposed amendments are focused on key areas, including:
Inserting principles requiring all practices under the RMA to
be, efficient, consistent and cost-effective. This will include the
use of electronic and internet-based options for public notices and
the service of documents.
Restricting RMA plans to matters relevant to the purpose of the
RMA. This seems to be a direct response to concerns that, in some
areas, the RMA duplicates and is inconsistent with other
legislation more specifically designed to address the subject
matters. How effective this will be in addressing duplication of
regulation however may be questionable, given the broad subject
matter which could be argued to be 'relevant' to the
purpose of the RMA.
Streamlining of the consenting process, which among other
things alters the rules in respect of notification, treats boundary
activities as permitted when the relevant neighbours agree to them,
and inserts a ten working day fast-track for simple
The creation of a national planning framework including a
national planning template, designed to reduce the complexity of
plans and introduce a standard structure and format for plans.
The Amendment Bill introduces an option for councils to use a
collaborative planning process – whereby a group of community
representatives consults on the content of a plan and makes a
recommendation to the council, which must be followed. Councils
also have the ability to apply to the Minister for the Environment
for a streamlined planning process with shorter timeframes than
those provided by the usual RMA process.
Subdivision is to be permitted unless a rule in a plan changes
that. The aim of this proposal being to increase the ease that
further land for residential development can be provided.
The powers of consent authorities to reject submissions have
been increased. A consent authority must strike out a submission on
a resource consent where:
the submission does not have a sufficient factual basis;
the submission is not supported by any evidence;
where the only evidence is "expert evidence", the
expert must be independent and have sufficient knowledge of the
expert area; or
when the submission is unrelated to the actual or likely
effects of an application and those effects were the reason it was
Although these changes are not nearly as far-reaching as what
had previously been talked about by the government, they will
change a number of processes and requirements directly affecting
those involved in land development and related environmental and
planning issues. Those affected (i.e. anyone wanting to participate
in resource use or environmental issues) should make sure they
understand the changes.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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