The Government has today released draft Terms of Reference for the Resource Management Review Panel (Panel). The Terms of Reference are available to download here.

The Panel, which is to be chaired by Hon Tony Randerson QC, will be an expert advisory group tasked with undertaking a review of the resource management system, with a focus on the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA). Individuals with skills across a range of relevant areas such as planning, local government and te ao Māori will be appointed to the Panel. It is understood that appointments to the Panel will be made by Cabinet.

The draft Terms of Reference state that the aim of the review is to improve environmental outcomes and enable better and timely urban development within environmental limits. The review will focus primarily on the RMA itself, and is to prioritise setting the high level framework for an improved resource management system. It appears that more detailed policy, process and transitional issues will be progressed by officials following the review. Key issues that the Panel have been tasked with considering include:

  • removing unnecessary complexity from the RMA;
  • aligning land use planning and regulation with infrastructure planning and funding through spatial planning;
  • considering whether or not to separate statutory provision for land use planning and environmental protection;
  • examining all RMA functions and processes with a view to improving efficiency and effectiveness; and
  • allocating roles between central and local government, the Environment Court, and other institutions.

The draft Terms of Reference suggest that a key focus of the review is to be on strengthening spatial planning across the RMA, the Local Government Act 2002 and the Land Transport Management Act 2003. The review is to consider the potential impact of and alignment with other relevant legislation. Institutional reform is not a driver of the review, however the review is to consider which local government entities are best placed to perform resource management functions.

The outcome of the review will be the production of a final report for the Minister for the Environment. The report is to contain recommendations on how to improve the resource management system and strengthen spatial planning. The report is also to contain detailed policy proposals for significant parts of the new Act or Acts, and contain indicative drafting of key provisions. The draft Terms of Reference indicate the report is due with the Minister at the end of May 2020, with an issues and options paper due with the Minister at the end of October 2019. These are extremely tight timeframes given the magnitude of the Panel's task, although the review will not take place in a vacuum and will likely be informed by other recent reviews of the resource management system.

It appears that the Minister is keen to achieve buy-in for any potential RMA reform, and it is intended that the Panel will have the discretion to consult stakeholders on particular technical issues if needed.

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