The next step in replacing the Resource Management Act – it's time to have your say

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The Government has released an exposure draft outlining key aspects of the Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA). The NBA is the first of three pieces of legislation which will replace the Resource Management Act 1991.

For more information on the earlier announcements about this legislation, see our previous articles Resource Management Act to be repealed and replaced and RMA reform – confirmed and underway.

The exposure draft is not the full text of the NBA, but sets out some of the key provisions. These focus on three central areas.

The purpose of the NBA

The NBA is the legislation that will deal with land use and environmental protection. This is the legislation that will control what can be built and where.

It will work in closely with the second of the new pieces of legislation, the Strategic Planning Act (SPA), which will set out a process for Regional Spatial Strategies. These will be high-level and strategic, and will identify the big issues and opportunities facing a region and how it will grow and change over the next 30 plus years. In Canterbury, for example, all councils will need to operate under the same regional strategies.

Major developments will likely have to refer to both pieces of legislation, while smaller ones will likely fall under the NBA.

The stated purpose of the NBA is to enable people and communities to use the environment in a way that supports the wellbeing of present generations without compromising the wellbeing of future generation, and also enabling Te Oranga o te Taiao (the health and welfare of the natural environment) to be upheld, including by protecting and enhancing the natural environment.

This is a definite change of emphasis. The detail on the level of consultation to be required will increase to meet the words used in the exposure draft. It is not yet clear what the words protect and enhance will mean in relation to any development proposal.

The NBA states that to achieve its purpose:

  • the use of the environment must comply with environmental limits to protect the ecological integrity of the natural environment and human health;
  • outcomes for the benefit of the environment must be promoted; and
  • any adverse effects on the environment of its use must be avoided, remedied, or mitigated.

The National Planning Framework

The proposed new National Planning Framework will provide a set of mandatory national policies and standards on specified aspects of the new system. These will include natural environmental limits, outcomes and targets. These are already underway, with the National Policy Statements on freshwater management and urban development, for example.

The national planning framework will address the national direction to:

  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
  • develop urban areas that are well-functioning and responsive to growth and other changes;
  • ensure a housing supply which will provide choice, improve affordability, meet the diverse and changing needs of people and communities, and support Māori housing aims;
  • provide for the ongoing provision of infrastructure services; and
  • improve the resilience of the environment to natural hazards and the effects of climate change, and to reduce the risks of both.

The Natural and Built Environments plans

Natural and Built Environments plans will be developed by local government, central government, and mana whenua, and will replace existing regional policy statements, regional plans, and district plans. The government expects that the number of plans across New Zealand will reduce from over 100 to 14.

These plans will contain provisions that determine whether a consent is required, whether it needs to be notified, and what criteria will be considered when deciding whether to grant it.

Next steps

The select committee inquiry is expected to take around three months to examine the draft legislation and consider the submissions made. The NBA will then be developed further, before being introduced to Parliament, along with the Strategic Planning Act, in early 2022. There will be a second opportunity to make submissions at that stage.

A copy of the exposure draft of the NBA is available here. Submissions can be made to the Environment Select Committee, until 4 August 2021.

If you would like any further information about the Natural and Built Environments Act, or would like any assistance in making a submission, please contact our resource management team.

Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose.

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