Minister for the Environment, David Parker, today launched the next stage of the Government's resource management reform program.
This will involve a comprehensive review of the Resource Management Act 1991, including how it interacts with other relevant legislation including the Local Government Act (LGA), the Land Transport Management Act (LTMA) and the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act (once passed).
The Government's overall objective for the review is to "improve environmental outcomes and enable better and timely urban development within environmental limits."
The Cabinet Paper outlining the various options for the review (including the Government's preferred option, the proposal launched today, and reasons for its selection) can be viewed here. The draft terms of reference for the review can be read here.
What will be addressed by the review?
The review aims to address the following key issues:
- Unnecessary complexity of the RMA.
- Improving the quality of plans and the coherence and effectiveness of national direction.
- Clarifying the roles of central and local government.
- Strengthening environmental bottom lines.
- Further clarifying the role of Part 2, including consideration of whether Part 2 matters should remain within the RMA or sit in a separate piece of legislation.
- Recognising objectives for development (including housing and urban development).
- Ensuring that processes enable sufficient certainty for major infrastructure.
- Ensuring New Zealand's resource management system is sufficiently resilient to manage the risks posed by climate change, and that the RMA aligns with the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act (once passed).
- Urban tree protection.
- Enabling a new role for spatial planning across the RMA and the LGA and LTMA to provide better alignment of land use planning and regulation with infrastructure planning and funding.
- Ensuring that Māori have an appropriate role in the resource management system, including giving effect to Treaty of Waitangi settlements and clarifying the meaning of iwi authority and hapū.
What won't be addressed?
- Institutional reform is not anticipated but the review will include considering the roles of the various resource management institutions.
- Matters relating to the marine environment New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone.
- Existing Treaty settlements (except in terms of how any new resource management system will provide for them).
Who will undertake the review?
A new Resource Management Review Panel will be established to carry out the review. Retired Appeal Court Judge Hon Tony Randerson has been appointed as chair of the Panel, with Lesley Baddon heading the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) team. Other Panel members with skills in a wide range of resource management disciplines will be appointed.
Is there any opportunity for consultation?
Three phases of consultation are identified in the Cabinet Paper:
- Phase 1 is consultation with a "targeted group" including Māori. This group includes EDS, RMLA, NZPI, Forest & Bird, NZLS and the Farmers Leaders Group.
- Phase 2 will likely involve a wider group, including further sector and environmental groups, and iwi authorities.
- Phase 3 is public consultation which will begin following Cabinet consideration of proposals developed by the Panel.
There will be further opportunities for consultation once the Government has decided how it will give effect to the Panel's recommendations, which we expect will be through the introduction of one or more bills proposing amendments to the RMA and other relevant legislation.
Timeline for the review
- The Panel will produce an "issues and options" paper by the end of October 2019, which will be used to solicit public feedback.
- Feedback received from this paper will be considered by the Panel in preparing its final report.
- The Panel is due to provide a final report to the Minister by the end of May 2020.
- This report is to include detailed policy proposals and indicative drafting of key parts of any amendments or new legislation proposed. The Government will then use the report to determine the way forward for its resource management reform program in terms of more detailed policy, process and transitional matters.
The Prime Minister has dubbed 2019 as the year of "delivery" for the Government, and a comprehensive overhaul of the RMA is one of the Government's key deliverables. While today's announcement has been welcomed by many, and provides the first real look at the next stage of the Government's reform program, the review process and timeline proposed mean that we are unlikely to see any substantive reforms before the next election in 2020.
The scope of any reforms that will come out of the review process also remains uncertain. Minister Parker has said that New Zealand needs "a thorough overhaul of the law.” It will be interesting to see how the Government grapples with the numerous and complex issues facing the RMA at present, and how it balances this reform process against the various other environmental work streams it already has underway, and the challenging politics of RMA reform in New Zealand.