By way of background, phase II of the Resource Management Reform
Programme focuses on the issues relating to particular sectors and
the need for improved interaction between the Resource Management
Act (RMA) and other statutes. It has ten related
work streams. The first four streams relate to aquaculture,
infrastructure, urban design and water. The reforms also seek to
develop the scope, functions and structure of the proposed
Environmental Protection Authority. The next four work streams
involve the better alignment of the Resource Management Act
processes with those of the Building, Conservation, Forests, and
Historic Places Acts. The final stream involves a number of generic
RMA processes that were too complex to include in Phase I of the
In January 2010, the government appointed two technical advisory
groups (TAGs) to review policy around urban
planning and infrastructure. TAG recommendations were received by
the government and have now been refined and included in a
discussion document entitled Building Competitive Cities -
Reform of the Urban and Infrastructure Planning System which
has been released for consultation by the Ministry for the
Environment. The discussion document will be of interest to
developers, infrastructure providers and resource management
Problems with the current system and options for reform
The discussion document identifies a number of problems with the
current statutory framework for urban planning and infrastructure
project development. These include inadequate recognition of the
urban environment in the RMA, an overly complex planning system,
lack of clarity and inflexible approval processes.
The document puts forward a number of possible options
to address the problem issues identified. In the area of planning
and urban design these include:
Recognising the urban environment in the RMA by broadening the
Act's definitions and by making specific reference to urban
environment in the Act.
Extending the scope of a proposed national policy statement on
urban design to give increased direction and clarity around high
level issues such as providing land supply and addressing housing
Improving the effectiveness of spatial planning in Auckland by
requiring regional and local RMA and Local Government Act plans to
'give effect to' or 'be consistent' with the
Auckland spatial plan. The planning framework for the city could
also be simplified by replacing RMA policy statements and plans
with a requirement for a single plan.
Improving regional and local plans by introducing a
standardised national template. This could include a common
structure and set definitions, or other mechanisms to give local
authorities greater certainty in the implementation of national
Enhancing mechanisms to create large areas of land to improve
land supply, housing choice and affordability by extending the
scope of the Public Works Act to enable local authorities to
compulsorily acquire and amalgamate land for major urban
Options for addressing issues associated with
infrastructure development include:
Increasing national direction and consistency through the use
of national standards. One option would be to allow certain aspects
of infrastructure, construction and operation to be conducted
without the need to apply for approval as long as the standards
Changing eligibility for 'requiring authority' status
(which allows infrastructure providers to obtain designations and
acquire land under the Public Works Act) by extending eligibility
to a broader range of infrastructure types, particularly providers
of ports and electricity generation.
Facilitating long term infrastructure planning by introducing a
new optional 'concept designation' process into the RMA
which would enable corridors and sites to be protected for future
development, even where funding and final design has not been
Streamlining approval processes by creating a single approval
process for nationally significant infrastructure projects
(providing all necessary approvals and a single point of appeal)
and improving investment certainty for resource consents by
introducing a new streamlined process for re consenting existing
Introducing independent decision making for some designations
and establishing a clear decision making framework by providing
greater national direction.
The closing date for submissions is Friday 17 December 2010.
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This publication is intended as a first point of reference and
should not be relied on as a substitute for professional advice.
Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to any
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