Policy agreement reached on Resource BillEnvironment
An agreement on policy issues in the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill has been reached between National and the Māori Party, which will enable the Bill to pass its second and third readings, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.
“This legislation is critical to the Government’s programme of improving New Zealand’s environmental management, increasing the supply and affordability of housing and supporting economic growth. This is the most comprehensive package of reform to the Resource Management Act since its inception 25 years ago, and it is welcome news that we have the Parliamentary support to put these 40 changes into law,” Dr Smith says.
This is the second phase of the Government’s resource management reforms, and the dozen significant provisions in the Bill include:
- National planning standards to reduce complexity and cost
- Streamlined planning process to improve responsiveness
- Discretion for councils to exempt an activity from consents
- Strengthening of requirements to manage natural hazard risks
- New 10-day consent category for minor activities
- New requirements for council to free up land for housing
- New provisions to enable stock exclusion from waterways
- New provisions requiring decommissioning plans for offshore platforms
- More generous compensation for land required for public works
- Better alignment with other Acts like Reserves, Conservation and EEZ
- Collaborative planning process to encourage community-led solutions
- Improved Maori participation arrangements
“The Māori Party has strongly advocated for improved iwi participation. This has been achieved through including the Mana Whakahono ā Rohe/Iwi Participation Arrangement in the Bill. This enables iwi and councils to enter into agreements on how iwi can be involved in resource management processes so as to ensure their perspective is heard and understood. Many councils already have these agreements through Treaty settlements or good practice. The Government supports these provisions because we want iwi involved in how natural resources are managed and because formalising the process will help achieve better outcomes with less delays and costs.”
The reforms in the Bill were first proposed in 2013 but were not able to be advanced due to the Government not being able to secure sufficient Parliamentary support. A revised Bill without the controversial changes to the purpose of the Act was introduced last December, with the support of the Māori Party for first reading but subject to further discussion on significant issues such as the iwi participation arrangements.
Submissions were heard on the Bill from April to June, and the select committee received two departmental reports – one in August and the latest just last week. Opposition parties last week refused an extension of the select committee report back date beyond 7 November, so it was reported pro-forma. The Bill will be re-referred back to the select committee by the Government tomorrow.
“The select committee has a major task ahead to work through the 500-page departmental report and refine the drafting of the Bill. The Government wants to advance the legislation as quickly as possible but this is an area of law where getting the detail right is particularly important. It may be completed this year but may flow into early next year. We will also need to consult with the Māori Party on the detailed drafting when the Bill is reported back to Parliament to ensure it is consistent with the agreed policy.
“This Bill is about improved management of our environment, it is about increasing housing supply and affordability, and it is about growing the economy and jobs. There are very significant gains for the economy and the environment from these reforms to these six major laws,” Dr Smith concluded.