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Environment, Planning and Natural Resources Year in Review 2021

Home Insights Environment, Planning and Natural Resources Year in Review 2021

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Published on: December 16, 2021


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Year in Review


8 April 2021

National direction on climate change
The Ministry for the Environment (MfE) released a discussion document setting out the proposed approach to greenhouse gases under the Resource Management Act. Greenhouse gases will be considered under the RMA from early next year, meaning that consent applicants will be required to address the greenhouse gases produced by their activities (and councils will be required to assess those greenhouse gas emissions). 

29 July 2021

Exposure draft of the Natural and Built Environments Act released
The Government released an exposure draft of the Natural and Built Environments Act. This contained the purpose and principles provisions of the new legislation. It set out a new framework moving away from a focus on effects-based management to a system of environmental outcomes and limits. The Environment Select Committee's inquiry received over 3,000 submissions.

1 September 2021

Wetlands U-turn
MfE announced a proposal to backtrack on the rules relating to development in and around wetlands. The proposal sought feedback on a pathway for infrastructure and other urban development through the prohibited activity status attached to development around wetlands as well as clarification to the definition of wetland

19 October 2021

New Bill introduced to tackle housing crisis in New Zealand
Significant reform to require councils to better provide for intensification, jointly announced by the Government and National, was introduced. The Bill proposed new rules to enable medium density residential development. Those new rules together with the provisions of the National Policy Statement on Urban Development will be incorporated via an intensification streamlined planning process (ISPP). The Bill has now received royal assent. See our update on this here.

28 October 2021

Three Waters Reform is proceeding
Minister Nanaia Mahuta confirmed that the Government will push on to create four publicly-owned water entities and that the three waters reforms will be mandatory for all councils. An exposure draft of the Water Services Act has now been released for feedback from a three waters working group.

2 November 2021

Fast-track consenting process now extended
The fast-track consenting process under the COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020 was extended on 2 November 2021 to give applicants until 8 July 2023 to apply for projects under this simplified and streamlined consenting route. A number of parties have already used the fast-track process to consent large projects that contribute to New Zealand's economic recovery.


On the horizon for next year…

Resource Management Reform
The big-ticket item for next year is the release of the Natural and Built Environments Bill and the Strategic Planning Bill. These are expected to be introduced to the House in June. This will mark the future of resource management and environmental law in New Zealand.
Medium Density Housing Changes
2022 will be a big year for urban development with a range of councils notifying plan changes to deliver on the medium density housing requirements through ISPPs.
Further opportunities for getting on the fast-track
With the success of the fast-track consenting pathway this year, and its recent extension until July 2023, we expect many more applicants will make the most of this favourable process. So far, there have been a range of applications for housing, infrastructure and commercial uses showing the adaptability of this process.
Three Waters reorganisation
2022 will be critical for Three Waters Reform, with the legislation to establish the four Water Services Entities expected to be introduced to the House early next year.
Climate change
The Government will release the Emissions Reduction Plan in May 2022. This will be the policy bedrock for emissions reductions in New Zealand and will flow through to the Resource Management Act by way of legislative changes due to come into effect early next year.

This article is intended only to provide a summary of the subject covered. It does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. No person should act in reliance on any statement contained in this publication without first obtaining specific professional advice. If you require any advice or further information on the subject matter of this newsletter, please contact the partner/solicitor in the firm who normally advises you, or alternatively contact one of the partners listed below.

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