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Resource Management Amendment Bill

Select Committee Reports On Resource Management Amendment Bill

The Local Government and Environment Committee has presented its report on the Resource Management Amendment Bill. The committee recommends, by majority, that the bill be passed with amendments.

The Resource Management Amendment Bill makes a number of significant amendments to the Resource Management Act 1991. The previous Government introduced the bill in July 1999. Nearly 400 submissions were received, 215 of which were oral submissions. The committee has spent over 80 hours hearing evidence and considering the bill since March 2000.

Jeanette Fitzsimons, Chairperson of the Committee, said that many submissions on the bill highlighted that the administration of the Act by local government has so far been variable both in quality and in approach. The committee is also concerned that the workload currently before the Environment Court is more than it can deal with expeditiously, and strongly recommends that the Government apply additional resources to allow the Environment Court to clear this backlog.

In the report, Opposition members express concern that the original aim of the bill - to reduce compliance costs - has been lost. They believe many of the changes adopted by the committee add to the costs of implementing and using the legislation.

Ms Fitzsimons said that, in considering this bill, the committee’s approach has been to apply the presumption that the current wording of the Act should not be changed without good reason. The committee has sought to improve the practice and procedures of the Act, without compromising environmental outcomes or reducing opportunities for public participation.

Significant changes to the bill as introduced include:

- Proposed amendments to the definitions of “amenity values” and “environment” not to proceed.

- Provisions in the bill relating to the transfer of regulatory functions from the New Zealand Historic Places Trust to local authorities not to proceed at this time.

- The effect of proposed plans (including provisions relating to financial contributions) not to be limited, except where councils resolve to defer rules coming into effect.

- The current presumption against subdivision to be retained.

- The board of inquiry mechanism for preparation of national policy statements to be retained, but streamlined.

- Regional councils to retain “integrated management’ function.

- Biodiversity functions to be specified for both regional councils and territorial authorities.

- Regional policy statements not to be optional, but provision to be made for them to be combined with other planning documents.

- Use of independent commissioners on request not to be mandatory.

- Contestable processing of resource consents not to be introduced.

- Non-complying category of activity to be retained.

- Limited notification not to proceed.

- Resource consent applications not to be referred directly to Environment Court.

- Awarding of security for costs by Environment Court to be precluded.

The committee supports the retention, with amendments, of a number of provisions in the bill. Some of the more significant provisions include:

- Historic heritage to be given extra significance as a matter of national importance under section 6 of the principal Act, and a definition of the term “historic heritage” to be retained in amended form.

- Iwi planning documents to be given greater weight.

- Timeframes for processing resource consents to be adjusted and clarified.

- Provision to be made for notification and non-notification decisions to be appealed to Environment Court.

- Process for preparation of national policy statements to be simplified.

- Second Schedule of the Act to be repealed.

- Section 32 for development of provisions in plans and policy statements to be clarified, and written evaluation reports to be required.

- Transfer to other public authorities of further powers of local authorities to be provided for, with responsibility shifted to the transferee.

- Local authorities to be able to delegate further functions to employees.

- Scope and impact of national environmental standards to be clarified.

Copies of the committee’s report on the Resource Management Amendment Bill will soon be available from Bennett’s Bookshops.

Jeanette Fitzsimons

Chairperson

Local Government and Environment Committee

Members of the Local Government and Environment Committee

Jeanette Fitzsimons, Chairperson (Green)

Martin Gallagher, Deputy Chairperson (Labour)

David Benson-Pope (Labour)

Georgina Beyer (Labour)

Ann Hartley (Labour)

Joe Hawke (Labour)

Owen Jennings (ACT)

Brian Neeson (National)

Eric Roy (National)

Hon Dr Nick Smith (National)


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