Thursday, July 18, 2024
10.1 C


My Account

- Advertisement -

RMA REFORM: What does it mean for us?

This week marked a significant step in Resource Management Act [RMA] reform, with the Spatial Planning and Natural and Built Environment bills introduced to Parliament.
The RMA, passed into law in 1991, intended to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources.
Sir Geoffrey Palmer first introduced the act in 1989 as a 314-page bill, since then, the document had almost tripled in size.
The Spatial Planning and Natural and Built Environment bills now aim to simplify the contents of the RMA.
A third piece of legislation, the Climate Adaptation Act, is expected to be introduced to Parliament next year.
Ministry for the Environment [MftE] said key reforms in the RMA would see planning for positive outcomes, not just managing adverse effects.
It said it would enable integrated and strategic long-term planning for transport, infrastructure, housing, climate resilience, and environmental protection.
MftE said the bills would allow for a stronger, more consistent national policy direction.
How does this
affect our councils?
Minister for the Environment David Parker said the cost of consenting was increasing, with council fees for notified consents more than doubling between 2015 and 2019.
Parker said costs for mid-sized infrastructure projects were up 70 per cent in the same period.
“New Zealand developers’ consenting costs of 5.5 per cent of total project costs are at the extreme end compared with the UK and the EU, where consenting costs are between 0.1 per cent and 5 per cent.”
He said the time to grant consents for infrastructure projects had increased by 150 per cent over the past decade.
“Everyone is frustrated – environmentalists, developers, councils, farmers, home builders, and there is cross-party support for the need to repeal and replace the RMA.”
Greater Wellington Regional Council [GWRC] deputy chair and Wairarapa representative Adrienne Staples said the council had no crystal ball but said the RMA reform would “greatly affect” it.
“We won’t be making the regulatory decisions, that’s going to be given to a committee.
“Is that a good thing? The jury is out at the moment about removing the community’s ability to have a say on what their towns and the environment is going to look like.”
Staples said RMA reform was needed, but it would have far-reaching implications for councils and communities.
However, she did not think it would greatly affect GWRC this triennium, adding that the council would be making a submission on the proposed reform.
She said even if the government passed the legislation tomorrow, it would not remove the RMA overnight.
Staples said there had been talk of some regional councils trialling the RMA’s replacement, while others remained with the current system.
“We’re not too keen on being up there on the first tranche,” she said.
Masterton District Council chief executive David Hopman said simplifying the RMA processes would be welcomed by many.
“Changes are likely to take several years to be fully implemented. However, work such as the current review of the Draft Wairarapa Combined District Plan will likely consider the proposals the RMA reforms are addressing.”
He said council consenting fees were based on cost recovery, so funding would not be lost.
“If less council work is required, then fees will be appropriately adjusted.”
A Carterton District Council spokesperson said the council had not had enough time to fully consider and understand the implications of the announcement.
“But should the reforms pass, we are very mindful of the potential impact for our community, council, and the District Plan.”
South Wairarapa District Council group manager for planning and environment Russell O’Leary said the council’s planning team was still unpacking the implications of the RMA.
“It is understood that the reforms, if passed, would in time replace the current Wairarapa Combined District Plan, which covers our district, with a regionally
based planning document.”
He said the new plan would need to align with Wairarapa.
How does this
affect our farming?
Many members of the rural sector have criticised the government for what they perceive as a constant flow of reforms.
MftE said the reforms would make room for a regional and collaborative approach to planning, along with a more consistent national direction.
Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor said the bills aimed to reduce reliance on consenting and provide clearer direction for farmers
and the agricultural sector.
He said the current system took too long, cost too much, and did not adequately provide for development or manage environmental effects.
“The shortcomings of the RMA are well known.”
O’Connor said the bills would introduce clearer environmental limits and greater use of permitted activities that would not require consent.
Federated Farmers said it was worried the proposed replacement to the RMA focused only on streamlining urban development and would make it harder to farm in New Zealand.
Federated Farmers national board member and resource management spokesperson Mark Hooper said the government had gone out of its way to emphasise there would be fewer resource consents for infrastructure and housing.
“However, down on the farm, it’s hard to see how the new law won’t see even more environmental red tape for farmers.”
Wairarapa farmer Mike Butterick said there was no doubt reform was necessary, but careful consideration was needed to make sure it was done properly.
“We’ve got to be careful that we don’t jump from the frying pan into the fire.”
He said Aotearoa had shifted from a nation of “can-do” attitudes to “not allowed to do”, and said the devil would be in the detail.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

Related Articles

- Advertisement -
moderate rain
10.1 ° C
10.1 °
10.1 °
98 %
100 %
10 °
12 °
14 °
14 °
13 °