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RMA Improvements Introduced

Media Release

Hon Simon Upton

13 July 1999

The Resource Management Amendment Bill, tabled in the House this evening, is the culmination of almost two years intensive policy analysis and public consultation, said Environment Minister, Simon Upton.

"The changes are designed to reduce unnecessary delays and costs in the RMA process without undermining the Act's environmental objectives".

The final round of public consultation, from November 1998 through to January this year, resulted in a further 750 submissions. These have been carefully analysed and a number of changes made to the proposals that had gone out in November.

"The time taken to consult widely has been well spent. I believe, all interested parties have come to a clearer appreciation of the issues at stake. The final result is a bill that accommodates a range of conflicting but nonetheless legitimate interests".

The key changes put forward by the Bill are:

-The confused and wordy definition of "environment" has been clarified to limit the opportunity for creative legal arguments that can de-rail the essentially environmental purpose of the Act.

- A form of contestable consent processing is introduced. This will give the applicant choice for the first time. In response to concerns about conflicts of interest, it has been made clear that any person acting as a consent processor must be the contracted agent of the council.

- Applicants and submitters will have the right to require applications to be heard by an independent commissioner.

- Controversial and complex applications may be referred directly to the Environment Court for determination.

- A "half-way house" between full public notification and non-notification of resource consents will be introduced. The Bill will enable councils to notify applications only to those parties identified as being affected and who have declined to give their approval. As a safeguard, the Bill will provide an easier route for people to seek a review of the council's decision whether or not to notify.

- The Bill also strengthens recognition of the protection of our historic heritage as a matter of national importance.

Mr Upton said he was expecting the Parliamentary Select Committee to give the Bill close scrutiny, "as some of these issues will benefit from a further hearing".

"The RMA is the closest thing we have to an environmental constitution. This Bill will improve the way it operates in practice, and therefore, will help ensure this important legislation retains public support", Mr Upton concluded.

ENDS

The following further information will be accessible at www.arcadia.co.nz

Analysis of Submissions to the Proposals Document, and two briefing notes:

Ministry for the Environment's advise on the Amendment Bill, and An explanation of key policy decisions.

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