Second phase RMA Bill passedEnvironment
The successful passage today of the 250 page Resource Legislation Amendment Bill through its third reading is a major milestone for the Government’s reform programme, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.
“The reforms in this Bill will help increase the supply and affordability of housing, grow the economy with more jobs and higher incomes, support infrastructure investment and improve environmental management,” Dr Smith says.
“The 700 clause bill makes 40 significant changes to the Resource Management Act, Public Works Act, Conservation Act, Reserves Act and the Exclusive Economic Zone (Environmental Effects) Act.
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 RMA became law 25 years ago but since then it has become excessively complex and expensive. We currently have 80,000 pages of RMA plans and rules, or an average of 1000 per council. The new national planning standards will hugely reduce the bureaucracy and the new streamlined planning process will speed up the time it takes to write replacement plans.
“These reforms will reduce the number of consents required by thousands. Councils will have a new power to waive the need for consents for minor issues, and a new 10-day first-tracked consent will be available. This boils down to things like homeowners wanting to build a deck having to consult only with an affected neighbour, and no consent being required for issues that involve minor or temporary rule breaches.
“This Bill is pivotal to resolving New Zealand’s long-term housing supply and affordability problems. The cost of a section in Auckland has increased tenfold over the past 25 years, from $53,000 to $530,000, as compared to the threefold increase in the cost of building, from $120,000 to $360,000. The key solution is making sections easier to create and more affordable. This Bill introduces a specific requirement on councils to free up land, removes appeals on residential developments, reverses the presumption in favour of subdivisions and removes the double charging system of financial and development contributions.
“The introduction of natural hazards into the core principles of planning and consenting is critical to New Zealand lifting its management of risks from earthquakes and floods. This change was recommended by the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch Earthquakes and I am appalled that on a day of floods affecting communities like Edgecumbe, opposition parties are opposing this sensible extension of councils’ planning responsibilities.
“There are important environmental gains in this Bill. We need the national regulation-making powers to get stock out of our waterways, while provisions requiring offshore platforms to have decommissioning plans will ensure taxpayers are not left with environmental liability.
“The Iwi Participation Arrangements provisions will provide a better framework for councils to meet their existing consultation obligations. The provisions do not change councils’ decision-making rights on plans or consents. They simply provide a mechanism for councils to meet their obligations under sections six, seven and eight. Councils that have these arrangements are finding it is better to have iwi involved early in the process as it avoids delays and costs further down the track.
“This reform delivers on National’s Bluegreen agenda of supporting economic growth, more houses, better infrastructure and less bureaucracy while ensuring New Zealand’s environment is well managed and protected.”