Government to scrap 30-year-old RMA

Environment Minister David Parker ordered the review last term. Photo: RNZ/
Environment Minister David Parker ordered the review last term. Photo: RNZ/
The Government will scrap the Resource Management Act and replace it with three new pieces of legislation.

Environment Minister David Parker ordered a review last term, saying the 30-year-old law was "too costly, takes too long, and has not adequately protected the environment".

The plan announced today is broadly in line with the findings of the independent review panel, led by retired Court of Appeal Judge Tony Randerson, QC, which recommended a "completely different approach, while also incorporating some of the key principles of the previous legislation".

The three new Acts will be:

  • Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA) to provide for land use and environmental regulation,
  • Strategic Planning Act (SPA) to integrate with other legislation relevant to development, and require long-term regional spatial strategies,
  • Climate Change Adaptation Act (CAA) to address complex issues associated with managed retreat and funding and financing adaptation.

The Randerson review highlighted "the significant pressure the country's natural environment is under" and "the way we use land and water has proved to be unsustainable for the natural environment".

"Freshwater, coastal and marine environments are in "serious decline'' and "biodiversity is under significant threat'', it said.

Poorly managed urban growth was said to have "led to increasing difficulty in providing affordable housing, worsening traffic congestion, greater pollution and reduced productivity''.

Labour campaigned on repealing and replacing the RMA, and Parker said the new law would "improve the natural environment, enable more development within environmental limits, provide an effective role for Māori, and improve housing supply and affordability".

"Planning processes will be simplified and costs and times reduced," he said.

Other "key changes" include "stronger national direction and one single combined plan per region," the minister said.

"And there will be more focus on natural environmental outcomes and less on subjective amenity matters that favour the status quo. Better urban design will be pursued."

The RMA has long been blamed for putting a brake on housing development and Parker said the new laws would address that "by improving how central and local government plan for housing and urban development".

"This includes better coordination of future infrastructure with land use, development and urban growth," he said.

The NBA would be the main law to replace the RMA; it will include a "mandatory set of national policies and standards to support the natural environmental limits, outcomes and targets specified in the new law," said Parker, that will be incorporated into combined regional plans prepared by local and central government and mana whenua.

"The existing 100-plus RMA council planning documents will be reduced to about 14."

The Strategic Planning Act will "integrate functions under the RMA, Local Government Act 2002, Land Transport Management Act 2003 and the Climate Change Response Act 2002 to enable clearer and more efficient decision-making and investment," he said.

"New spatial strategies will enable regions to plan for the wellbeing of future generations, ensuring development and infrastructure occurs in the right places at the right times."

Climate Change Minister James Shaw will be responsible for the Climate Change Adaptation Act.

The National and Built Environments Act will be progressed first and a special select committee inquiry will consider a draft version from mid-year. This will include the "most important elements of the legislation", including the replacement of Part 2 of the RMA, Parker said.

"I expect that the complete NBA and the SPA will be formally introduced into Parliament by the end of 2021, with the NBA passed by the end of 2022," he said.

And he said the the government was working with a collective of pan Māori entities on key elements of the NBA including the strengthened recognition of tikanga Māori and Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and local government.

The leader of the Opposition, National's Judith Collins, says she offered the Government the "olive branch" of working constructively to overhaul the system, but as of Tuesday had not heard from the minister.

Parker said yesterday he hadn't yet talked to National because "they're not the Government".

But he said he did intend to "reach out" and had had some initial discussions with National's environment spokesperson Scott Simpson at Waitangi.

- By Jane Patterson, political editor 


Parker, "they're not the Government". Does this mean we're in a one-sided Labour-led dictatorship? With no input from other Members of Parliament?
Will this new Act improve development of New Zealand or is it the RMA with a new coat of paint?

No, it means that National gets as much consideration and input as Labour did when National was in power. Incumbent at any time is elected to lead. The Opposition has very little to say and do with policy implementation other than pointing out potential flaws etc. This is provided for via questions during question time, which are usually wasted on inconsequential matters or mindless point-scoring. The other avenue the Opposition gets a major say is in the various select committees etc that bills pass through. The other MPs have plenty of opportunities to put their 2 cents in. The problem National has is large amounts of their voters switched to other parties so their numbers shrunk. As a consequence so did their resources, available questions, representation on committees etc, and thus their relevance and importance decreased as well. It' hardly a dictatorship when this is one of the platforms they ran, and were elected, on.
If National wants more say they need to win their voters back to increase their presence in Parliament and thus increase all the aforementioned points. After all we are a representative social democracy and the more people you represent the more say you get.

It seems that mu78 does not understand how our parliament works. His main concern is that MPs who are not members of the ruling party will not get a say. Fundamentally he's right, they don't. The govt gets to make the laws and they can disregard non govt MPs at their will.
This is not new. It's been that way since parliament's divorced themselves from the control of the monarch some 400 years ago.
It is also the key component of a democracy, the majority always rules.
I suggest that if he doesn't like it he move to somewhere where the minority gets to overthrow the majority, usually by violent means, like, say Myanmar or perhaps the USA.

Unfortunately, it's worse than that. I often see MPs bring up valid and logical points in Opposition to parts of a Bill that result in petty personal attacks on that person with no constructive dialog to resolve the issue that is brought up. It's like they never left high school or they are a career committee member.

Mu78 comment above.
Yes, as I've said this is not new. It's the way democracy works. Doesn't matter how good your contribution to the debate is, if the majority don't accept it, whether out of spite or out of policy differences it does not get picked up.
National have done it to Labour, Labour does it to National, The minority parties have it done to them all the time.
Democracy, for all of its flaws it is still the best system of govt available to us.

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter