Changes proposed to RMA following earthquake report

  • Gerry Brownlee
  • Nick Smith
Environment Earthquake Recovery

A report into approvals of subdivisions in Christchurch and Kaiapoi badly affected by Canterbury's earthquakes has resulted in the Government proposing changes to the Resource Management Act to better manage the risk of natural hazards.

The fact finding report by consultants Hill Young Cooper and Resource Management Group Limited released today investigated the planning and resource consenting history in Christchurch’s eastern suburbs and Kaiapoi from 1977. It found the majority of these areas were zoned for residential development in the 1960s and 1970s but that significant areas were consented for subdivision after 1991 when the liquefaction risk in these areas was clearly identified.

“The RMA didn’t work and needs fixing,” Dr Smith said. “The concern is that reports in 1991 identified these areas as highly susceptible to liquefaction, yet consents for subdivisions were granted without any consideration of these risks. About a fifth of the areas badly affected by liquefaction in earthquakes over the last year were consented after this time. The problem is the RMA did not – and still does not – require these sorts of risks to be assessed and managed.

“This reflects the priorities in the RMA of preserving natural character, landscape, flora and fauna, public access, cultural values and heritage over managing natural hazards. The Government intends to amend the RMA to give greater weight to managing the risks of natural hazards like earthquakes.”

“New Zealand is a geologically young country with significant risks from earthquakes, volcanoes and floods. We need to learn from this report and ensure those hazards are specifically taken into account in future planning decisions. Keeping risks to a minimum will also help keep insurance cover accessible to New Zealanders,” Mr Brownlee said.

“These important changes will feed into the Government's broader, second phase of changes to the RMA planned for next year. A Technical Advisory Group led by barrister Alan Dormer will report back to Government by March 2012 on detailed proposals,” Dr Smith said.

The Canterbury Fact Finding report can be found at: