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Solutions to improve RMA process proposed

NZ Business Council for Sustainable Development proposes practical solutions to improve RMA process

The NZ Business Council for Sustainable Development (the Business Council) has today published two submissions, which provide a practical way forward to improve the experience of companies small and large in negotiating the potential minefields often associated with the Resource Management Act (RMA).

The Business Council is a group of some 50 businesses, with a combined workforce of over 60,000 New Zealanders, who believe that the role of business in sustainable development is to operate profitably while promoting economic growth, social equity and environmental management. In line with this, the Business Council believes that there should be legislated protection for the environment and if the Resource Management Act (RMA) did not exist it would wish legislation with a similar purpose to be enacted.

Peter Neilson, Chief Executive explains the background to today’s submissions to the Government Ministers reviewing the RMA: “We initiated a project to review the RMA from the perspective of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SME’s) earlier this year in response to concerns raised by our members and others that the RMA was, in some cases, a hindrance to smooth effective business in New Zealand. At this time a significant Government review of the RMA was not envisaged as being imminent. The recommendations which emerged from our RMA issues working groups provide clear advice to Government Ministers.”

Neilson continued: “The network industry working party was formed to provide a business response to the Government’s proposed review into achieving the right balance of national and local issues. It addresses the issues raised by consent applications for same activities at multiple sites in a local authority area or across more than one of the 74 local authorities across New Zealand.”

The submissions seek changes to the RMA which will improve the certainty and reduce the compliance costs for business whilst recognising the importance of environmental bottom lines.

The major recommendations from the SME submission are:

to provide financial penalties for councils that do not comply with statutory timeframes. For example, Hamilton City Council has run a “money back guarantee” scheme for three years. to establish an environmental ombudsman or environmental review office to respond to complaints and recommend performance improvements. Business rightly considers that planning is part of the services to business for paying their rates and an environmental ombudsman office would have the benefit of providing business-like solution to the process. to have independent and accredited persons make the decisions on consents. Elected decision makers should have skill-based training, and be required to pass a test to obtain independent “accreditation”. At least 50% of all elected decision maker panels should be “accredited” decision makers.

The network industries submission provides three major proposals:

use National Policy Statements (NPS) and National Environmental Standards(NES) to give a clear steer on national development priorities and to achieve greater consistency of plans and consenting practices across New Zealand. allow industry in conjunction with local and regional government, to initiate the development of National Policy Statements and National Environmental Standards which would prevail over local plans to lower compliance costs and allow for quicker roll outs of telecommunications upgrades. For example, the telecommunications networks case study included in the submission identifies the inconsistent standards applied to 3G network rollouts across 70 plus local authorities. enable applicants to use an alternative jurisdiction, a regional hearing panel with independent commissioners where a local authority is not performing, or a National Consenting Body where a project is likely to have national economic or social benefits that may outweigh local effects.

Neilson added: “Our recommendations are designed to give maximum improvement to the RMA with the smallest number of changes that can be implemented within a year.”

The papers can be downloaded from our website http://www.nzbcsd.org.nz/section.asp?NewsSectionID=11

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