View RMA successor process too fast

Proposed replacements for the Resource Management Act are being pushed through too quickly and are in danger of removing local voices from decisions about their communities, Dunedin city councillors said on Tuesday.

A meeting of the council’s planning and environment committee was discussing whether to approve its submission on the draft Natural and Built Environments Bill.

The Bill is the primary proposed replacement for the RMA, with two other Acts proposed to handle strategic planning and climate adaptation.

The council’s submission said it broadly agreed with the objectives of the RMA reform, but raised concerns over the loss of local influence over making plans and a lack of local government engagement with the proposed Bill.

Several councillors echoed these concerns in Tuesday’s discussion.

Cr Christine Garey said there were similarities between the RMA reform process and the Three Waters reforms, and both raised concerns about the ability of locals to influence decisions about their regions.

Cr Rachel Elder said as well as the RMA and Three Waters reforms, the process of amalgamating district health boards was also ongoing and much change was happening quickly.

She said the Government said local authorities had not provided extra funds to fund staff working on ‘‘the extreme amount of work’’ involved in responding to the various proposals.

She was pleased the council had worked with other southern territorial authorities in creating submissions, and the potential loss of local influence over decision-making was a concern.

Cr Carmen Houlahan said the Bill had important goals such as protecting the environment and giving recognition to the Treaty of Waitangi, and much was at stake if the Bill got it wrong.

In her opinion the Bill had been rushed.

‘‘It doesn’t give us long to engage with our community, to talk about it, or to decide on such a huge, massive issue that affects all of us and certainly councils.’’

Cr Jim O’Malley said the speed of changes was less important than whether local government bodies could see their input in the design.

‘‘[Is this] an implementation of a concept that has been thought out and is now being implemented, but consultation is really more one of informing rather than engaging.’’

The council voted to approve the submission and authorise Mayor Aaron Hawkins or his delegate to speak to the submission at the select committee.


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