A law change that will require overseas investors prove their forestry conversions will benefit New Zealand passed its final reading in Parliament yesterday.
The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) will be repealed and replaced with new laws this parliamentary term, Environment Minister David Parker has confirmed.
The three new Acts will be the:
- Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA) to provide for land use and environmental regulation (this would be the primary replacement for the RMA)
- 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.
“Water quality is deteriorating, biodiversity is diminishing and there is an urgent need to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to climate change,” says Parker.
“The new laws will improve the natural environment, enable more development with 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.
There will be more focus on natural environmental outcomes and less on subjective amenity matters than favour the status quo.
He reform follows the review of New Zealand’s resource management system led by former Appeal Court Judge Tony Randerson and published in July 2020.
Reform has been called for over the last decade, including the Productivity Commission, the Waitangi Tribunal, Local Government New Zealand, the Environmental Defence Society, the Property Council, and Infrastructure NZ.
Under the NBA, there will be a mandatory set of national policies and standards to support the natural environmental limits, outcomes and targets specified in the new law. These 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,” Parker says.
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.
“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.”
The CAA responding to the effects of climate change will be progressed by Climate Change Minister James Shaw.
However, ACT say they are concerned that the new laws are simply the RMA by another name.
“Essentially this is the RMA by three other names but with more Māori consultation,” says ACT environment and local government spokesperson Simon Court.
“Labour is proposing to set up new agencies with new regulatory powers that essentially cut and paste the worst elements of the RMA into three new pieces of legislation.
“This will tie land up in planning purgatory for another decade and have the effect of increasing red tape and the cost of housing and doing business,” he says.
Greenpeace, meanwhile, says they are cautiously welcoming the announcement.
“The RMA created a consenting process that traded off private profit driven development against environmental destruction, which cumulatively resulted in an environmental death spiral,” says Greenpeace Aotearoa executive director Dr Russel Norman.
“It is hopeful that the proposed new legislation will incorporate biophysical limits that must not be breached. The test of the new legislation will be exactly what those limits are and whether these public interest environmental protections trump private profit driven applications,” Norman says.
The Minister for the Environment says the National and Built Environments Act, as the core piece of legislation replacing the RMA, will be progressed first.
He says he expects the complete NBA and SPA will be formally introduced into Parliament by the end of 2021 and expects the NBA to be passed by the end of the following year.