The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill has passed its
third reading, marking the most significant change to the RMA since
Most changes will come into effect immediately.
Central government's powers expanded
The new Act adds the following tools to central government's
"National Planning Standards", which may contain
compulsory and/or optional directions on structure, formatting and
content of regional policy statements and regional/district plans,
new regulation making powers, which allow the Minister to
override local planning provisions that duplicate or overlap with
other legislation (excluding provisions dealing with genetically
modified organisms). Examples could include provisions dealing with
hazardous substances, or matters covered in the Building Code.
The Act also creates a single process for developing National
Policy Statements and National Environmental Standards (now
collectively known as "National Directions").
Increased scope for iwi involvement
The Maori Party has negotiated provisions for "Mana
Whakahono a Rohe", which will enable iwi and local authorities
to formally agree on and record ways for tangata whenua to
participate in resource management and decision-making
New plan making processes
Two new plan making procedures are now available to local
the collaborative process, which seeks to achieve
consensus recommendations from a "collaborative group"
that represents a range of community interests, and
the streamlined process, which is fast-tracked and
subject to ministerial approval, with limited scope for appeals (a
local authority may request this process in relation to private
plan changes, with the applicant's consent).
Limited notification of plan changes and variations is also now
Resource consents streamlined
Relevant changes include:
precluding public notification for most subdivisions,
residential activities and "boundary activities" (ie
applications that breach controls such as yard standards and height
in relation to boundary limits)
preventing limited notification of controlled activities (other
than subdivisions), and
removing Environment Court appeal rights in relation to most
subdivisions, residential activities and boundary activities.
Financial contribution provisions in district plans must also be
phased out within five years.
Chapman Tripp comment
The new Act enables greater national direction, reflecting
central government's increasing willingness to direct local
planning rules and processes.
The legislation reduces public participation in plan change and
resource consent processes, a concept that has underwritten the RMA
to varying degrees throughout its history. We note that the new
restrictions on Environment Court appeals may cut both ways, in
that unsuccessful applicants and submitters will have limited
recourse against an adverse local authority decision.
This restriction may lead to an upswing in judicial review
proceedings as a method to challenge council decisions.
Iwi involvement in resource management processes has been
bolstered through the new, more formal, participation arrangements.
These arrangements are likely to bring more clarity to the scope of
iwi involvement in planning and decision making, and potentially
increase the level of iwi influence in these processes.
Further changes on the horizon?
Beyond these reforms, the government is coming under increasing
pressure to investigate more fundamental changes to New
Zealand's planning system. Of particular interest is the
blueprint for a complete re-design of planning laws.
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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Parties will need to continue to amend AS 2124-1992 and AS 4000-1997 to address deficiencies and bring them up to date.
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