Resource Management Act to be repealed and replaced

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Government has released a report, New Directions for Resource Management in New Zealand, which recommends the repeal of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) and its replacement with two new pieces of legislation: the Natural and Built Environments Act and the Strategic Planning Act.

The focus of the Natural and Built Environments Act would be on enhancing the quality of the environment and on achieving positive outcomes to support the wellbeing of present and future generations.

The proposed Strategic Planning Act would set long-term strategic goals and integrate land use planning with the provision of infrastructure and associated funding and investment. The new legislation would include strategic planning for urban growth and responding to change, measures to respond to the effects of climate change, and the identification of areas unsuitable for development due to their natural values or importance to Māori.

The aim of the changes is to respond to the significant challenges currently faced, including:

  • the pressure on New Zealand’s natural environment;
  • the struggle to keep pace with population growth in urban areas; and
  • increased pressure on ecosystems due to rapid changes in rural land use.

A key element of the announcement is to “solve problems” associated with urban infrastructure and urban growth strategies. There will be a greater focus on Te Tiriti o Waitangi, however we cannot see that the new legislation will make any great difference to the everyday work dealing with the processing of water and land use consents. These will still centre very much on the direct effects associated with people and communities.

Any new legislation which has as its focus “the quality of the environment” will still lead to conflict between farmers, aggregate extractors, developers, and miners on one side, and environmental advocates on the other. Protecting the quality of the environment is also unlikely to result in any significant change to the prosecution regime.

The Minister for the Environment, David Parker, agreed that change was needed, commenting that “the RMA has doubled in size from its original length. It has become too costly, takes too long, and has not adequately protected the environment.”  However, he did not explicitly agree to support the recommendations, noting that it is “for the next Government to consider the report, and decide which aspects to adopt and decide whether to implement it in whole or in part.”

Assuming that the recommendations are adopted, the implementation of the changes recommended in the report will still take a number of years. Legislation will be drafted, and there will be an opportunity for the people of New Zealand to have their say. We will provide updates whenever new information is available.

A full copy of the report is available here.

If you have any questions, or would like any further information, please contact a member of 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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