Comprehensive overhaul of the RMA announced

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The Government announced on 24 July that it has launched a comprehensive overhaul of the Resource Management Act (RMA) by setting up a review panel to conduct a wide-ranging review of the entire resource management system.

The New Zealand Government announced on 24 July that it has launched a comprehensive overhaul of the Resource Management Act (RMA) by setting up a review panel to conduct a wide-ranging review of the entire resource management system.

The review panel is the second stage of the two-step reform process announced by the Minister for the Environment, David Parker, late last year. Stage two of the RMA reform process aims to improve the resource management system by cutting complexity and costs, and will focus on current Government priorities in urban development, climate change and freshwater.

Stage one of the reform process was to introduce an amendment bill with a focus to reduce complexity of the RMA, introduce simple changes to improve consenting, freshwater management, enforcement and Environment Court operations, and reverse certain criticised aspects of the Resource Legislation Amendment Act 2017. The proposed amendment bill will be introduced to Parliament in the next few months.

The review panel is likely to gain support from the full spectrum of representative groups, who as part of the Resource Reform NZ Group have been calling for a review of the entire planning system. The Resource Reform NZ Group is comprised of EMA, Infrastructure New Zealand, Property Council New Zealand, the Environmental Defence Society (EDS) and Business NZ. EDS has commenced the second phase of its own resource management system review project and the Government has signalled this EDS project will inform the review.

The overhaul will be led by a panel chaired by retired Court of Appeal Judge Tony Randerson. The scope of the review will include the RMA and how it interacts with the Local Government Act, the Land Transport Management Act, and the Zero Carbon Bill. Consideration of where Part 2, which sets out the principles and purposes of the RMA, should sit in the legal framework, is also part of the review. The review panel is expected to produce a proposal for reform by mid-2020.

One of the more contentious aspects of the review panel will be the possible replacement of the RMA and other environmental, local government and transport legislation. Whole scale change will be a significant undertaking, but few people would disagree that the time has come for a comprehensive review. The election cycle is likely to be another challenge to the review process.

Other Government initiatives in resource management for 2019 include:

  • The Kāinga-ora – Homes and Communities Bill: This Bill, introduced to the House on the 29 May 2019, establishes Kāinga-ora- Homes and Communities as a new Crown entity that will lead small and large-scale urban development projects and act as a public landlord in managing tenancies for public housing. A second Bill is expected later this year, which will outline the enabling development powers to be given to Kāinga-ora – Homes and Communities.
  • Proposed National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity (Proposed NPSIB): The purpose of the Proposed NPSIB is to improve how indigenous biodiversity is provided for in regional and district plans. The Proposed NPSIB will be open for public consultation in October 2019.
  • Proposed amendments to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater and introduction of a new National Environment Standard for freshwater management.

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