Fresh moves to improve RMA operation

  • Marian Hobbs
Environment

Further moves to improve the implementation of the Resource Management Act and reduce compliance costs have been announced by Environment Minister, Marian Hobbs.

They are part of a package unveiled today by Commerce Minister Paul Swain and Marian Hobbs in response to the Business Cost Compliance Report released earlier this year.

Marian Hobbs said the government will build on work already under way such as increased funding and new judges for the Environment Court, the Quality Planning website and a range of research projects.

"The key to reducing compliance costs lies in assisting councils to improve their implementation of the Act, while at the same time, not compromising the fundamentals of the RMA which allow communities to have their say on decisions that will affect them," she said.

The Cabinet has approved the package and final funding will be determined during the budget round.

RMA projects with a high priority are:

„h The development of a voluntary accreditation system and training programme for councillors undertaking RMA functions.

„h Development of guidance for working with Maori on resource management issues including the establishment of iwi contacts databases and guidelines on charging and timelines.

„h A quality assurance programme for best practice in resource consent processing and plan development within local authorities.

Marian Hobbs said there will be further changes to the Resource Management Amendment Bill currently before the House.

These will:
„h Remove proposed appeal rights to the Environment Court on notification as it could overload the Environment Court. Appeals will remain in the High Court.
„h Permit limited notification of resource consent applications for activities with minor effects. Of the 2500 notified consents per year, many are only notified because of potential effects on neighbours. Councils will be less inclined to non notify applications if the limited notification option is available.

Marian Hobbs said she wanted to strike a balance between reducing compliance costs while maintaining good environmental protection and meeting the needs of communities.

"Councils' RMA performance has improved steadily over recent years, but we believe introducing several new measures will assist them further. In saying that, these changes do not absolve business of responsibility. It¡¦s a two way street and business must do its part to ensure that a good outcome is achieved.

"Delays cost everyone both in time and money and the additional measures will be welcomed by environmentalists and developers alike."