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RMA reform Bill committee stage being debated

Hon Dr Nick Smith
Minister for the Environment

4 April 2017 Media Statement

RMA reform Bill committee stage being debated

Parliament will today debate the committee stage of a Bill that is the second phase of the Government’s substantial reforms to the Resource Management Act (RMA), Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“This Resource Legislation Amendment Bill is an important part of the Government’s long-term programme to increase housing supply and affordability, support a growing economy and jobs, and improve environmental management. We completed the first phase of reforms in our first term but were unable to secure Parliamentary numbers in our second term. This Bill, containing 40 changes, is the most substantive change to the RMA since it became law 25 years ago,” Dr Smith says.

“The biggest changes to the law are in the content and way plans are developed. The current 80,000 pages of RMA plans and rules, or on average 1000 pages per council, are excessively complex and expensive. The process for writing a plan takes seven years on average. The new national planning standards will hugely reduce the bureaucracy and the new streamlined planning process will speed up the time it takes to write replacement plans.

“These reforms will reduce the number of consents required by thousands. Councils will have a new power to waive the need for consents for minor issues. A new 10-day first-tracked consent will be available. Boundary issues like building a deck will be able to be resolved by simply getting a neighbour’s consent. The gains from the changes will save homeowners millions of dollars in direct costs and delays.

“There are important environmental gains in this Bill. It is critical that management of natural hazards is added to the central principles of the Act. We need the national regulation-making powers to get stock out of our waterways. The provisions requiring offshore platforms to have decommissioning plans is important to ensuring taxpayers are not left with environmental liability.

“The Mana Whakahono ā Rohe/Iwi Participation Arrangements provisions will provide a better framework for councils to meet their existing consultation obligations. The provisions do not change councils’ decision-making rights on plans or consents. They simply provide a mechanism for councils to meet their obligations under sections six, seven and eight. Councils that have these arrangements are finding it is better to have iwi involved early in the process as it avoids delays and costs further down the track.

“This Bill has been eight years in the making. The Government has taken the time to get it right, and we look forward to it improving New Zealand’s environmental management and supporting jobs and growth while increasing our housing supply and affordability.”

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