Wednesday, February 28, 2024

New resource management laws given first reading

New laws set to deliver a faster, cheaper, and better resource management system had their first reading in the House today.

The Spatial Planning (SP) and the Natural and Built Environment (NBE) Bills, which were introduced last week, will replace the 30-year-old Resource Management Act (RMA).

Environment Minister, David Parker said the two Bills will work together to cut red tape, lower costs and shorten the time it takes to approve new homes and key infrastructure projects.

“The current system does not work. It takes too long, costs too much and has not adequately protected the environment or supported development,” Minister Parker said.

“The existing system has made housing more expensive and contributed to a shortage of homes.

“There is an urgent need to address issues with the current RMA. The new system will be less complex and provide more certainty. It will address these long-standing issues, better protect the environment and save millions of dollars,” he said.

Key improvements of the new legislation include:

  • New standardised conditions will see fewer “bespoke” consents and speed up the process;
  • More upfront work on plans to provide clear direction and to increase certainty around consent processes;
  • Fast-track process retained;
  • On a conservative estimate, costs to users will fall 19% a year ($149m) or $10b over 30 years;
  • Environmental protection is improved, based on new targets and limits;
  • The National Planning Framework will provide consistency and certainty;
  • Over 100 RMA plans will reduce to 15 NBE plans ;
  • NBE plans to be completed within four years.

“The improvements from the new system will start to be seen from day one with compliance and designations changes coming into effect immediately. Implementation of the wider system will happen region by region,” Mr Parker said.

Some elements are already in place, which will be incorporated into the new system, including fast track, urban intensification rules and the National Policy Statement on Freshwater.

The first three regions to move into the new system will be chosen soon, the Minister said.

He said a draft National Planning Framework will be released when the Act is passed and will be in force in 2024. The first Regional Spatial Strategies are then expected to take about two years to complete.

“This legislation will now be given full six-month consideration by a select committee, and be passed into law next year, before the election,” Mr Parker said.

“I encourage everyone to get involved in the select committee process because the way New Zealand’s natural resources are managed affects us all.”

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