Thursday, July 18, 2024

Environment committee report next step in resource management reform

Environment Minister, David Parker, today welcomed the Environment Select Committee’s report into the new resource management reform laws.

The Minister said around 3,000 submissions had been received, with approximately 94% in favour of system reform.

“I want to thank submitters who took the time and effort to make their views known. Systemic reform of this nature is complex, and we rely on the input of system users to get the details right,” said Mr Parker.

“By and large, major organisations on all sides were broadly supportive of the aims of the reform.”

These include:

  • Reducing the number of RMA plans across New Zealand from 100 to 16;
  • Better quality plans with more permitted activities;
  • Enabling development within environmental limits;
  • Achieving better environmental outcomes, limits and targets (rather than effects-based management, which has not adequately guarded against cumulative effects like declining water quality and climate emissions);
  • More affordable housing, and
  • Fewer, faster consents.

“The reform will establish a more efficient, less costly system that allows the housing and infrastructure we need for our communities to thrive, without depleting our natural resources and degrading the state of our environment,” said Mr Parker.

“Many submitters provided constructive comments to improve the workability of the new legislation. I also want to thank the select committee for its excellent work in ensuring that the legislation gives practical effect to our reform intentions.”

Significant changes to the Spatial Planning and Natural and Built Environment (NBE) Bills, as reported back from select committee, include:

  • Enabling local voice – strengthening the NBE Bill to give more effect to local democracy through statements of community expectation.
  • Housing and infrastructure – improving planning and consenting provisions such as notification, designations and fast-track.
  • Fast-track consenting – a form of fast-track referral to consenting panels will continue during the transition from enactment of the NBE Bill to implementation of the new system by the regions. Fast-track was originally a temporary Covid response measure. It will now continue to apply permanently for specified infrastructure and large housing developments.
  • Hydro schemes – all schemes with generating capacity of more than 5MW (covering 99 per cent of all capacity) will be able to apply for replacement consents with durations of up to 35 years.
  • Environment Court – like all courts, the Environment Court applies the law (including Treaty of Waitangi provisions), but the Court is not constituted under the Treaty clause in the NBE Bill. This has been clarified in response to concerns raised by the Chief Justice.
  • Tree protection – new national direction allowing local authorities to better protect urban trees without overly constraining development and change.

“The RMA takes too long, costs too much and does not adequately protect the environment. It’s time to repeal it,” said Mr Parker. “The new system will cost less for users.

He said the select committee’s report was the latest step in a thorough engagement process on the key principles and practical detail of the reform.

It follows the year-long Randerson review, a select committee inquiry into the key provisions, and earlier reports by key organisations including the Northern Employers and Manufacturers’ Association, the Environmental Defence Society, Infrastructure New Zealand, the Property Council, the Waitangi Tribunal and Local Government NZ.

“I’d like to thank the committee for the role it has played in ensuring the new legislation is as robust and workable as it can be. I look forward to diving into the select committee’s recommendations and debating the Bills with my parliamentary colleagues during the next stages of the legislative process,” Minister Parker said.

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