The public's opportunity to have a say on big
developments such as Dunedin's $100 million waterfront hotel
could be eroded by changes to the Resource Management Act, it
Councils around the country were already grappling with the
implications of proposed government reforms, which included
measures to make it easier for developers of projects worth
more than $10 million to skip the council consent stage and
go straight to the Environment Court.
And, yesterday, Environment Minister Amy Adams released a
second wave of proposed changes to the RMA that went even
The changes were designed to streamline the process while
protecting the environment, but included new limits on the
ability of submitters to oppose projects, restricting them to
areas that directly affected them, as well as limiting the
overall scope of submissions and grounds for appeals.
A new Crown body could also be created to undertake
consent-processing in areas facing particular growth
pressures, and more consents could be processed without
There would also be new limits on the types of conditions
able to be imposed on developers, as well as a push to
streamline councils' resource management plans into one
Ms Adams said frustration with the RMA was ''rife'', as
delays were costing time, money and lost opportunities, and
change was overdue.
''The impacts of this are real - delays and uncertainties
means potential new jobs are not being created, houses are
more expensive and communities have no idea what to expect in
The discussion document released yesterday followed the
tabling of the Resource Reform Management Bill, which was
introduced last December and was before a select committee.
Councils across the country were making submissions on the
Bill, including the Dunedin City Council, which confirmed its
submission at Monday's full council meeting.
Cr Andrew Noone, chairman of the council's infrastructure
services committee and a member of the hearings committee
considering plans for the hotel, told Monday's meeting the
Bill risked eroding local input on big decisions.
''Potentially, it [the Bill] does take away some involvement
of the local commissioners, or appointed commissioners, to
administer the district plan,'' he said.
Developers could already apply to the council to go straight
to the Environment Court, but the Bill made it a ''must'' for
councils to approve such applications unless there were
''exceptional circumstances'' that warranted saying no.
Council resource consents manager Alan Worthington said
yesterday the reasons for saying no were yet to be defined,
but would be spellt out in regulations to be unveiled by the
Cabinet later this year.
''Who knows what they might say? No-one has the ability to
have input on those.
''How absolute that is, you just don't know ... but, reading
between the lines, I imagine they will be relatively
restrictive,'' he said.
Cr Jinty MacTavish was also worried about the Bill, and said
she would be ''alarmed'' by any changes that detracted from
community input. That would represent ''a step backwards'',
Mr Worthington said the Bill's changes related mainly to the
roughly 6% of consent applications nationally that were
In Dunedin's case, only the hotel - which attracted more than
500 submissions - was likely to have been affected by making
it easier to go directly to the Environment Court, he said.
However, the discussion document announced yesterday went
''way wider'', he said.
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull and council chief executive Paul
Orders could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule said
some of the document's proposals had ''significant potential
to make processes less cumbersome and costly''. The
consultation document would lead to public consultation and
submissions before a Bill was tabled by the end of this year.