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NZ Gets Environmental Protection Agency Under RMA

NZ to get Environmental Protection Agency under RMA reforms

By Jonathan Underhill

Feb. 3 – The government will create a U.S.-style Environmental Protection Agency to streamline approvals for projects of national importance including highways, railways, the national grid and the railroad.

The EPA is among a package of 100 reforms to the Resource Management Act announced by the government today to speed development and reduce vexatious appeals to resource consents.

Prime Minister John Key said the existing RMA has been “a handbrake on growth” that has stalled important projects and added to red tape.

“The RMA has been a source of huge frustration,” Key said in a statement in Wellington. “We need to unlock that lost growth potential and untangle the red tape suffocating everyone from homeowners to businesses.”

The package of reforms constitute the biggest changes to resource planning law since the PMA was introduced in 1991, amending to other laws covering town planning and environmental management. The government installed its RMA Technical Advisory Group, led by lawyer Alan Dormer, to support the government’s RMA reforms.

National grid operator Transpower has been among critics of the RMA, which has slowed its efforts to upgrade lines and build new links across the country. The government today singled out supermarket chains for manipulating planning law to stall their rivals’ developments.

The retailers had spent “millions of dollars fighting each other and delays of years have resulted,” according to a statement from Minister for the Environment Nick Smith, who is promoting the Resource Management (Simplify and Streamline) Amendment Bill.

The statements today singled out specific cases where the RMA had slowed development including the Wairau Pak’nSave on Auckland’s North Shore, “embroiled in litigation since the 1990s,” and the Wellington Inner-City Bypass, whose design was first approved by Transit New Zealand and Wellington City Council and was finally approved 15 years later.

The government is tightening the rules to remove what it calls frivolous, vexatious and anti-competitive objections. Penalties for such efforts have been increased and developers face higher fines for breaches of the act.

The bill is expected to be ready to go before the Parliament by the middle of this month and after the select committee process, be back in the House for its final stages in late August.


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