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Councils Around the Country Warn Against Changes to RMA


Councils Around the Country Warn Against Changes to the Resource Management Act


By A. Omundsen


Submissions made by over 50 Councils around the Country have raised serious concerns to changes to the Resource Management Act 1991 proposed in the Discussion Document titled “Improving Our Resource Management System” in February 2013. The intention to proceed with these changes were confirmed in August 2013, despite over 13,000 submissions which raised serious concerns or objections, including submissions from all major environmental groups, historical organisations and a range of legal and professional associations.

In addition to strong concerns raised by the majority of submitters that proposed changes will harm the environment, Councils throughout the Country, have:
1. Identified the proposed changes will have high financial costs and could lead to increased charges to applicants and higher rates for ratepayers.
2. Result in a loss of community involvement in decision making.
3. Changes could undermine the ability to protect the amenity/pleasantness of urban areas through District Plans.
4. A lack of evidence to justify both the need for changes and their cost.
5. A large number of implementation problems and issues that need to be sorted upfront.
Extracts of submissions are provided in alphabetical order below:

AUCKLAND COUNCIL

“Throughout the document the problems the proposals seek to address are often poorly defined or are not supported by evidence. In other instances the proposed solutions will create more problems than they solve.”

“Council…is gravely concerned that, taken as a whole, the overall package of reform will erode local democracy, fundamentally undermine the purpose and function of the RMA, detract from Auckland’s ability to realise its potential…and put at risk those aspects of the Act that are currently working well.”

“Auckland Council…opposes the overall de-weighting of environmental, heritage and amenity considerations in the broad judgement approach… A ‘one size fits all’ approach will not work and would disenfranchise communities”.

BAY OF PLENTY REGIONAL COUNCIL

“Bay of Plenty Regional Council believes that the proposals do not uniformly provide good solutions to time, cost, effectiveness and efficiency problems with the present implementation of the RMA.”

CHRISTCHURCH CITY COUNCIL
“In combination these could cost the country’s (currently 78) local authorities tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars. For changes of this magnitude to be justified, the benefits would need to clearly outweigh the costs, and this has not yet been demonstrated”.

DUNDEIN CITY COUNCIL

“The proposals suggest a significant reduction in local decision-making around planning with far greater controls and influence by central government…This is a serious and dramatic change in the role of local government, local democracy, and DCC considers it extraordinary that such a change is being considered with almost no serious discussion with New Zealanders, based on scant evidence beyond anecdotal.”

“Overall, the proposed reforms contained in the discussion document will impose significant additional costs on the DCC with little evidence base to assess any benefits to the city.”

“The DCC does not support the removal of the reference to protection of historic heritage…as it … appears to signal a desire to remove perceived ‘impediments’ to the demolition of the country’s heritage.”

“It is difficult to see how imposing a single plan with templates for zones would be efficient and effective when each city or district has different historical patterns of development and face different challenges, including infrastructure constraints. This spoon-feeding approach also reduces public participation and the ability for the district plan to meaningfully recognise differences which a community desires…”

ENVIRONMENT SOUTHLAND

“Environment Southland believes careful consideration of the proposals is required to ensure that the intent of Act being ‘sustainable management’ is not compromised.”

FAR NORTH DISTRICT COUNCIL

“…Council would like to see additional evidence provided that confirms the issues identified are problematic for the majority of councils and are not based on worse case scenarios or exaggerated perceptions”.

FUTURE PROOF
“Future Proof is concerned that the approach is ad hoc …The proposed package to address housing affordability set out in the Discussion Document…is overly simplistic and has the potential to create significant issues…”

“Local issues should be resolved by the local council in consultation with their community. If this is not done than this is likely to result in a significant erosion of local decision making.”

HAMILTON CITY COUNCIL

“HCC is concerned that there has been no compelling evidence presented to suggest that there is an issue with the timeliness or cost of the current resource consent regime…HCC is concerned that the government is setting up a costly process for which ratepayers will foot the bill…All of the proposed changes would have significant impacts upon councils in terms of costs, the way that processes are undertaken, and potentially erode local decision making powers….”

KAIKOURA DISTRICT COUNCIL

“…The bulk of the provisions do not seem to actually address the actual issues with the Act… The changes do not seem to enhance the application of the Resource Management Act (the Act), but seems like a way to squeeze out due regard to small communities and natural resources”.

“…These changes are not considered to support sustainable management in NZ…Applying a national agenda for specific regions and localities could mean that local values are largely ignored…”

MARLBOROUGH DISTRICT COUNCIL

“Council has major concerns with a number of the solutions proposed. The manner in which the changes are proposed could result in a diminution of environmental protection and enhancement.

“Council is concerned that the thinking around further central government intervention puts at risk the ability for local communities to plan for their own futures…”

NAPIER CITY COUNCIL

“Policy development based on anecdotes, misinformation or an information deficit has the potential to generate non-solutions that are worse than the present situation… The actual proposals when boiled down translate into managerialism blather.”

NEW PLYMOUTH DISTRICT COUNCIL

“The need for reform needs to be justified…[We are] significantly concerned that the reform to the extent proposed will lead to increased costs on councils…Many of the issues are not relevant to provincial New Zealand…”

“Legislating for an overall broad judgment may start to undermine some of the key environmental considerations, which are critical to sustainable management…”

OPOTIKI DISTRICT COUNCIL

“There have been a number of attempts from successive governments to ‘fix’ the RMA (1993,1994,1996,1997,2002,2003,2004,2005,2007,2008,2009,2011) and each set of reforms fixed some of the concerns and creates others…In Councils view there is insufficient evidence based work undertaken to identify the real drivers for the problems. Each ‘fix’ seems to be reactive to the concerns of the day.”

OTAGO REGIONAL COUNCIL

“A number of the proposed changes go against the intent of simplifying and streamlining and will in face increase complexity, time and costs…The RMA should not be altered to focus on economic matters at the cost of environmental protection…”

SOUTHLAND DISTRICT COUNCIL

“…Of key concern are the sweeping statements that these changes will deliver significant benefits and efficiencies when the actual detail is not currently there to support them”.

SOUTH TARANAKI DISTRICT COUNCIL

“This proposal is obviously based on a political agenda, rather than an environmental / economic necessity, which tarnishes not only the integrity of this act, but law making processes in general.”

TARANAKI REGIONAL COUNCIL

“There are a number of issues with these proposals that need re-examination as to their need, practicality and workability across the board…The question remains where is the problem? Most consents issued nationwide are non-notified and the large majority processed within statutory timeframes.”

“Plans have to be owned by the local community if they are to be effective. Forcing a one regional plan model on local communities will lead to a heated, acrimonious and ultimately pointless process.”

TASMAN DISTRICT COUNCIL

“Some of the proposals show inadequate definition of the problem, gross assumptions about cause and effect and many lack any evidential basis. Some in fact seem to ignore what evidence does exist and simply respond to anecdote, innuendo, fear and suspicion…The apparent inability to appreciate how things work, or not, means that some of the so called solutions are impractical, ill targeted, inefficient and costly …”

TAUPO DISTRICT COUNCIL

“…There are proposals within the Discussion Document which staff believe will actually make the process less effective, and potentially cost our community significantly...Little benefit and significant cost is anticipated from combining our plan with the Regional Council’s…”

TAURANGA CITY COUNCIL

“Any RMA reform has to be absolutely justified and based on sound evidence of problems, not on perceived issues or be ideologically driven. There are many aspects on the discussion paper that do not provide sound evidence or thinking for change”.

WAUGANUI DISTRICT COUNCIL

“…Specific Auckland region land management issues have crept into provisions of the Resource Management Act that have the potential to disadvantage smaller territorial authorities in delivering the core services required under the Local Government Act and put pressure on the retention of good staff, achieving good environmental outcomes and may in fact increase the burden of additional costs onto ratepayers which has little to no public benefit.”

WELLINGTON CITY COUNCIL

“Overall there is a lack of clarity, a lack of factual basis to understand the issues, a poor explanation of what is proposed and a somewhat confusing explanation of how it would be implemented…imposing arbitrary legislative requirements on Councils which will not necessarily promote better practice and will add significant compliance costs on ratepayers and plan users.”
ends

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