Change to EEZ Act signals start of resource management reform

The Government has taken the first step in a series of changes to resource management processes, aimed at fixing failures in law passed by the previous government, and has signalled a wider review of the RMA in 2019.

A Bill to amend the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Act has been introduced to Parliament to ensure those applying for notifiable marine consents for activities within the EEZ pay for the Board of Inquiry that considers their applications, rather than the taxpayer picking up the cost.

“This is about fixing a National Party mistake. The 2017 amendments to the RMA and the EEZ were widely criticised for adding complexity and cost. Worse still, they changed the cost recovery rule and put the bill on the taxpayer. The amendment Act is needed to fix that mistake,” Environment Minister David Parker said.

This cost-recovery provision will not apply to applications for a Board of Inquiry that were made before the amendment comes into force.

“This is proper but does mean that hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars have been lost,” David Parker said

“We will be introducing a range of other, short-term changes to the RMA over the next year. Some will reverse or correct other 2017 changes, which were always deeply flawed.”

One example is reversing the change that took away appeal rights of applicants and objectors on residential activities and subdivision of land.

“This ill-considered change resulted in some developers submitting applications that they ensured were non-complying in order to maintain their own appeal rights. Restoring their right to appeal on discretionary activities will remove the perverse incentive created by the 2017 law change,” David Parker said.

“A more comprehensive longer-term review of the resource management system will be considered next year, building on the Government’s work on urban development and water issues, and informed by work from outside government.”

This will include the project being undertaken by the Environmental Defence Society, supported by the Law Foundation, Employers & Manufacturers Association, Property Council of NZ, Infrastructure New Zealand and Watercare and previous work by Local Government NZ.

“The project is taking a first principles look at how the resource management system operates – not just the RMA but the whole system.

“Through all of this, I will be a staunch defender of Part 2 of the RMA – which sets out crucial environmental bottom lines,” David Parker said.