RMA reform expected to pass through Parliament next month

Environment Minister Nick Smith

The government's long-stalled second tranche of reforms to the Resource Management Act is finally on the move.

The select committee deliberating on the largest bill before Parliament is due to report back tomorrow.

Tuesday's tabling of the report on the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill comes more than two months ahead of a mid-May deadline, the bill's fourth extension of time since being sent to select committee in December 2015.

The bill covers several pieces of environmental legislation, but at its core are a range of widely supported changes to the RMA, which governs environmental and planning decisions. A few contentious elements have held up the bill as the government seeks agreement with its two-member support partner, the Maori Party.

The Maori Party's main concerns have been about the ability of the Minister for the Environment to override local government decision-making, including on such issues as whether to declare an area off-limits to genetically modified organisms. Also important has been the detail of new participation rights for Maori in environmental and planning decisions.

The government's other two support partners, the one-MP ACT and United Future parties have opposed the RLA in its entirety, ACT because it doesn't believe the reforms go far enough and United Future because it believes they go too far.

Speaking at the National Party's Blue-Greens conference over the weekend, Environment Minister Nick Smith said the local government and environment select committee completed its deliberations last Thursday and the bill would be reported back tomorrow. Mr Smith says he expected it to pass through the Parliament in its entirety in March.

However, he indicated negotiations with the Maori Party are not yet finalised.

"Obviously, when the detail of the bill is reported back, we'll need to work with the Maori Party to ensure that the agreement we've reached is translated into the final text of the bill and there will be some discussions there," he said.

He also confirmed the Productivity Commission is close to issuing a report on the RMA.

The report is expected to recommend that environmental and urban planning law be separated to improve the speed and efficiency of decision-making in growing cities such as Auckland, where regulatory processes and planning regulation have been blamed as a significant element in a shortage of housing stock that has contributed to high house price inflation.

That approach is likely to be supported in principle by both the National and Labour parties, although the speed with which such a major reform could be attempted is likely to be regarded as challenging.


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Well if no one else will say it , I will....if it looks like apartheid, smells like apartheid and tastes like apartheid...

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"One small step ..........."
I s'pose 'tis better'n none! *sigh*

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Unelected Maori representation and water rights will damage National badly this year. The two issues most spoken about other than housing which is properly a local council issue

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Dr Smith's priority in the RMA review is to take the public out of planning and development decisions. His Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act Act has already removed significant democratic rights from the residents of several major cities. It cannot be said to be a victory for landowners, because even affected neighbours' rights are largely gone under HAASHA

It is interesting that the HAASHA regime was created under the pretense of making houses affordable, but in practice that is not a factor in most Special Housing Areas - such as Shelly Bay.

Similar tortured logic is at work in the recently announced "frequently safe for swimming" standards for our lakes and rivers.

The Smith rule for Resource Management seems to be Butt Out - We Know Best.

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Hopefully being election year questions might be asked about the Smith rule.

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File this under "Too little and too late"

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