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RMA changes reduce costs and delays

14 February, 2004

RMA changes reduce costs and delays

Significant improvements to the Resource Management Act (RMA) have been designed to reduce costs and delays, says Associate Environment Minister David Benson-Pope.

Mr Benson-Pope says the RMA Reform Bill currently before a Parliamentary Select Committee was the culmination of extensive consultation with key stakeholders including the courts, local Government, the planning community, and NGOs.

Among the most significant changes is the removal of de novo hearings at the appeal stage – in essence the whole case being re-litigated from the beginning – to a more focused appeal on specific issues. Local authorities and the Environment Court are also being given extra powers to run more efficient inquisitorial hearings. "This will significantly reduce the amount of time cases will be tied up in the Environment Court," says Mr Benson-Pope. "It will also reduce the cost to all parties involved. I have seen no facts that substantiate costs increasing as some have claimed.

“The legislative changes are just one part of a package of measures reflecting a stronger leadership role for central government in implementing and supporting the Resource Management Act,” said David Benson-Pope. "This includes poorer performing Councils being given greater direction to improve planning processes and systems where these are found to be deficient."

Key features of the new Bill include: providing mechanisms to manage competing national benefits and local interests, with provision of a menu of tools for government to support local decision-making strengthening the expression of national interest by reinforcing the role of national policy statements and national environmental standards improving local policy and plan-making, streamlining the plan-making processes to reduce compliance costs and end duplication of process the Government providing information to councils on the iwi authorities in each area or rohe. In terms of resource consents, iwi will have the same opportunities to participate as any other person affected by an activity

"This Bill is about providing greater certainty and efficiency in the way the RMA operates, while not sacrificing protection for our environment. We need to get the balance right so that New Zealanders get the environmental protection they expect and deserve, as well as certainty about the process. There is a lot we can do to improve the quality of decision-making, and further reduce delays and uncertainty about costs."

ENDS

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