Tuesday, July 16, 2024

First look at RMA replacement law

A first draft of the proposed law that will replace the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) was released by the Government today.  

Environment Minister, David Parker said an exposure draft outlining key aspects of the Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA) will be presented to Parliament and then referred to a select committee inquiry.

Covering land use and environmental regulation, the NBA is the primary replacement for the RMA which the Government has promised to repeal and replace. 

An exposure draft of a Bill is one that is put out for stakeholder and public feedback before it is introduced to the House.

This process is intended to test and improve the contents of the Bill before it goes into the formal Parliamentary process.

“The exposure draft is the first of two opportunities for people to give feedback on the reforms,” Mr Parker said.

 “The initial select committee inquiry is a novel way to provide an open and transparent platform for the public to have an early say on this key legislation.”

“A second select committee process will be held when the full Bill is introduced to Parliament in early in 2022.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to get this right, so we want to make sure we do get it right.”

The select committee inquiry is expected to run for about three months and the public will be invited to make submissions on the exposure draft of the new Bill during this time. 

The exposure draft for the NBA includes:

  • the purpose of the NBA (including Te Tiriti o Waitangi clause) and related provisions
  • the National Planning Framework
  • Natural and Built Environments plans.

Minister Parker said the NBA is one of a set of new laws the Government intends to enact in order to create a resource management system that is fit for the future.   

“The RMA takes too long, costs too much and hasn’t protected the environment.”

“The proposed NBA sets out how we can better protect and enhance our natural and built environments, ensuring that the way people and communities use the environment supports the well-being of current and future generations,” he said.

Mr Parker said the NBA sets out the ways the proposed system will protect the environment.

“A new national planning framework will provide clear direction on how the new system is implemented.  This integrated set of regulations will include mandatory environmental limits that cannot be crossed to avoid irreversible harm to the environment.”

“These limits will protect ecological integrity and human health. This includes limits relating to freshwater, coastal waters, estuaries, air, soil and biodiversity.

“For the built environment, outcomes include well-functioning urban areas, more housing supply and enabling infrastructure. The new Act will include choice for consumers, contribute to the affordability of housing and the productivity of our economy.”

A new function in the proposed system is the setting of positive outcomes that are specified in the national planning framework for both the natural and built environments. 

“We have moved away from just managing effects of activities because the existing RMA has allowed cumulative adverse effects including degraded water, increasing climate emissions and soil loss.

“Clear direction will be provided to achieve positive outcomes for the quality of the environment, the protection and restoration of the ecological systems as well as outstanding natural features and landscapes,” Mr Parker said.

He said the new system will be more efficient and effective.  

“We are creating a system that will be less complex, take less time to administer and be less costly.” 

The exposure draft outlines how more than 100 existing plans and policy statements will be consolidated into around 14 plans across the country.

“While not the sole cause of the housing crisis, planning rules are partly to blame.

“Simplifying processes will also add to system efficiency,” he said.

The Minister acknowledged the invaluable help from Associate Minister for the Environment Hon Kiritapu Allan around the reforms and engaging with Māori, saying the stronger recognition of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Te Ao Māori are important considerations within the proposed Act.  

The intention is for communities to work together to produce one mandatory Natural and Built Environments Plan (NBA plan) for each region. Having one plan per region that covers resource use, allocation and land-use management will better integrate plan provisions, contributing to a more cohesive management of the natural and built environment.

The exposure draft and explanatory material is available on the Ministry for the Environment website.  

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