Wednesday, June 19, 2024

First RMA amendment Bill introduced to Parliament

The Government has today introduced legislation which it says will help to slash red and green tape that is holding back some of New Zealand’s key sectors.

RMA Reform Minister Chris Bishop says the Government is committed to unlocking development and investment while ensuring the environment is protected. 

“Resource Management (RM) Bill 1 proposes targeted changes that can take effect quickly and give certainty to councils and consent applicants, while the Government develops new legislation to replace the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA),” Mr Bishop says.

“The Bill will also speed up the process for preparing or amending national direction. The current process for making or amending national direction is unnecessarily onerous, costly, and it takes too long.”

“We are backing our farmers who are world best in producing high-quality, safe produce that is globally sought after. Farming underpins New Zealand’s economy, boosting our GDP, and providing jobs for hundreds of thousands of people,” Agriculture Minister Todd McClay says.

Mr McClay said improving primary sector profitability was key to remaining competitive internationally and getting value back into farmers back pockets.

“We are cutting red tape to ensure regulations are fit for purpose and don’t place undue compliance costs on farmers and growers,” he said.

“The Government needs to ensure regulations are fit for purpose and don’t burden producers with unnecessary or unreasonable costs,” said Associate Environment Minister, Andrew Hoggard.

“Catchment and farm specific actions are better for managing risks to freshwater. 

“That’s why we are working hard to improve the Freshwater Farm Planning system to reduce the cost and complexity and integrate a range of industry and community developed plans.”

The changes proposed in the Bill will:

  • Exclude the hierarchy of obligations in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM) from resource consenting. This will address concerns raised about the way it is being applied while a review and replacement of the NPS-FM is undertaken;
  • Repeal the contentious low slope map and associated requirements from stock exclusion regulations, reducing costs for farmers;
  • Repeal the permitted and restricted discretionary activity regulations and associated conditions for intensive winter grazing from the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater (NES-F);
  • Align the provisions for coal mining with other mineral extraction activities under the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity (NPS-IB), NPS-FM and NES-F;
  • Suspend for three years requirements under the NPS-IB for councils to identify new Significant Natural Areas (SNAs) and include them in district plans. The Bill also extends some SNA implementation timeframes to 31 December 2030;
  • Speed up and simplify the process for preparing and amending national direction, including national environmental standards, national planning standards, national policy statements and the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement.

Mr Bishop said the Government was delivering on its plan to reform the resource management system in three phases.

“Introducing this Bill today also achieves two of our Q2 Action Plan for New Zealand targets: introducing legislation that clarifies the application of the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management and suspends the requirement on councils to identify and adopt new Significant Natural Areas.”

It also achieves several commitments in the National-ACT coalition agreement, he said.

“We repealed the Natural and Built Environment Act and Spatial Planning Act in December as part of Phase One.”

“Phase Two began when the Government introduced the Fast-track Approvals Bill in March. This phase includes RM Bill 1, the first of two bills that propose targeted changes to the resource management system. 

“We also plan to amend or develop new RMA national direction as part of Phase Two. This will make it easier to consent new infrastructure, get more houses built and it will enhance the primary sector.”

In Phase Three, the Government intends to replace the RMA with new resource management legislation.

“This will be based on the enjoyment of property rights, while ensuring good environmental outcomes,” said Mr Bishop.

The Resource Management (Freshwater and Other Matters) Amendment Bill will be sent to the Primary Production Select Committee for consideration after its first reading next week.

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