Tuesday, 16 February 2021 08:55

Finally, the RMA is going

Written by  Peter Burke
Minister for the Environment David Parker. Minister for the Environment David Parker.

It seems like there are few tears being shed around the country about the news that the RMA is to be scrapped and replaced by three new separate Acts.

Instead of one, 800 page Act designed to achieve sustainable management, there will be three new Acts.

The Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA) to provide for land use and environmental regulation, is in effect is the primary replacement for the RMA. As well there will be the Strategic Planning Act (SPA) to integrate with other legislation relevant to development, and require long-term regional spatial strategies and the Climate Change Adaptation Act (CAA) to address complex issues associated with managed retreat and funding and financing adaptation. 

The broad consensus for many years has been that the RMA in its present form is not working and tinkering with it make it right simply doesn’t work. 

Environment Minister David Parker says urban areas are struggling to keep pace with population growth and the need for affordable housing, water quality is deteriorating, biodiversity is diminishing and there is an urgent need to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to climate change.

“The new laws will 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 says.

Other key changes include stronger national direction and one single combined plan per region. This some commentators suggest may spark a major and timely review of local government, given the role that local authorities play in the resource management space.

The 30 year-old RMA is one of the largest and most complex pieces of legislation on Parliament’s books and while it has been given the inevitable and popular death sentence, it will take time to unravel and pass the new laws and make them operational. In theory the government hopes to have the NBA and SPA in parliament and the NBA passed by the end of 2022, but many experts believe it will take several more years before the new legislation to become fully operative.

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