Video | Agriculture | Confidence | Economy | Energy | Employment | Finance | Media | Property | RBNZ | Science | SOEs | Tax | Technology | Telecoms | Tourism | Transport | Search

 


Govt plans biggest environment law shake-up in a generation

Government heralds biggest environment law shake-up in a generation

By Pattrick Smellie

Feb. 28 (BusinessDesk) - Environment Minister Amy Adams has unveiled proposals for the most sweeping amendments to environmental and resource management law in a generation, including a much greater role for central government to direct local government decision-making.

At the heart of the proposed changes to the 22-year-old Resource Management Act is a desire to see community input into appropriate resource use occurring at the local government planning stage, rather than the current tendency for battles over local economic development to play out during resource consent applications.

Also proposed is a new central government agency which could be used to fast-track major developments such as approval for major new suburban subdivisions in cities like Auckland, where limited housing supply is making homes unaffordable for many people.

"Frustration with RMA processes is rife," Adams told a breakfast briefing in Wellington, attended by key players in city and environmental planning from around the country.

"There are too many times when planning happens almost by default and decisions are fought over on a consent-by-consent basis, and too many occasions where inconsistency between multiple plans eats up resources as councils battle between themselves."

Too many resource consents were blocked by a single, well-funded objector opposing a community's plans, while many local councils were making the cost of simple activities, like home renovations, unnecessarily expensive.

"In most cases, the issue is not about the decision ultimately reached, it is about wastage of time and money to get to that decision," said Adams. The proposed reforms will leave the RMA's Section 5, with its central tenet of "sustainable management" untouched, but there will be updates to the other crucial sections.

"A single and updated set of principles to guide planning and decision-making to replace the out of date Sections 6 and 7 is proposed," said Adams.

Labour's environment spokeswoman, Maryan Street, labelled the proposals an "Ministerial power grab" that went too far, "especially when it gives more power to Ministers to intervene directly in local plan-making processes and at the same time, proposes to reduce the role of the Environment Court significantly."

Among the most significant proposals are:

* a huge reduction in the number of local government planning documents, often overlapping and inconsistent, to a single plan for every "district", and doing away with the need for separate district and regional plans. Currently, New Zealand operates 170 separate resource planning documents, compared with just 37 in Scotland;

* greater central government guidance on the content of plans, especially on national priorities. The government could direct plan changes to reflect, for example, national as well as local priorities;

* a 10 day turnaround for minor resource consent applications;

* in the case of notified resource consent applications, submissions and appeals to be restricted to the issues requiring notification;

* restriction of certain types of Environment Court appeals to require rehearing rather than starting afresh on the issues. The new system of developing district plans "is focused on reducing reliance on the courts making decisions instead of communities";

* creation of a new Crown agency, possibly an offshoot of the Environmental Protection Authority.

"Where there is a matter of national significance that needs local action but has not been able to be adequately addressed, for example residential land supply in Auckland, the existing tools have proved inadequate for quick and effective central government action," said Adams.

Auckland Council's chief planning officer Roger Blakeley challenged Adams on the potential for such powers to over-ride local democracy, to which Adams replied: "There are a lot of places where the government has been too hands-off."

The proposals will also see local councils work to more standardised documents across the country and to public performance indicators to show relative performance in processing consents.

Maori participation is included in the reforms, with Adams saying the quality of engagement worked well in some areas and was "ad hoc" in others.

Submissions on the discussion document are due by April 2, with the government determined to have major revisions to the RMA passed into law before Christmas.

(BusinessDesk)

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Sky City : Auckland Convention Centre Cost Jumps By A Fifth

SkyCity Entertainment Group, the casino and hotel operator, is in talks with the government on how to fund the increased cost of as much as $130 million to build an international convention centre in downtown Auckland, with further gambling concessions ruled out. The Auckland-based company has increased its estimate to build the centre to between $470 million and $530 million as the construction boom across the country drives up building costs and design changes add to the bill.
More>>

ALSO:

RMTU: Mediation Between Lyttelton Port And Union Fails

The Rail and Maritime Union (RMTU) has opted to continue its overtime ban indefinitely after mediation with the Lyttelton Port of Christchurch (LPC) failed to progress collective bargaining. More>>

Earlier:

Science Policy: Callaghan, NSC Funding Knocked In Submissions

Callaghan Innovation, which was last year allocated a budget of $566 million over four years to dish out research and development grants, and the National Science Challenges attracted criticism in submissions on the government’s draft national statement of science investment, with science funding largely seen as too fragmented. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: Spark, Voda And Telstra To Lay New Trans-Tasman Cable

Spark New Zealand and Vodafone, New Zealand’s two dominant telecommunications providers, in partnership with Australian provider Telstra, will spend US$70 million building a trans-Tasman submarine cable to bolster broadband traffic between the neighbouring countries and the rest of the world. More>>

ALSO:

More:

Statistics: Current Account Deficit Widens

New Zealand's annual current account deficit was $6.1 billion (2.6 percent of GDP) for the year ended September 2014. This compares with a deficit of $5.8 billion (2.5 percent of GDP) for the year ended June 2014. More>>

ALSO:

Still In The Red: NZ Govt Shunts Out Surplus To 2016

The New Zealand government has pushed out its targeted return to surplus for a year as falling dairy prices and a low inflation environment has kept a lid on its rising tax take, but is still dangling a possible tax cut in 2017, the next election year and promising to try and achieve the surplus pledge on which it campaigned for election in September. More>>

ALSO:

Job Insecurity: Time For Jobs That Count In The Meat Industry

“Meat Workers face it all”, says Graham Cooke, Meat Workers Union National Secretary. “Seasonal work, dangerous jobs, casual and zero hours contracts, and increasing pressure on workers to join non-union individual agreements. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
Standards New Zealand

Standards New Zealand
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Business
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news