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Randerson Report Welcome Alternative For Resource Management Future

The new Government in September must act quickly on the Randerson Review Panel’s recommendations on New Zealand’s resource management future if the country is to transform quickly after the impacts of COVID-19, says the EMA.

The Randerson Report has recommended repealing the current Resource Management Act (RMA) and replacing it with separate environmental and planning acts, an outcome sought by the EMA and its fellow members of Resource Reform New Zealand (Infrastructure New Zealand, Environmental Defence Society, Property Council New Zealand and Business New Zealand).

"Clearly the RMA is no longer fit for purpose and is failing to protect the environment and failing to enable fast enough responses to cope with New Zealand’s rapid growth and infrastructure deficit," says the EMA’s Head of Advocacy and Strategy, Alan McDonald.

"The Randerson Report has acknowledged those failings and suggested a welcome framework to address those shortcomings."

The Randerson Report recommends a Natural and Built Environment Act and a Strategic Planning Act with an emphasis on greater national direction and standards and a focus on enabling development, particularly in urban environments, rather than deciding what cannot be done because of environmental effects.

"That approach, with more decisions being made on a planning basis rather than a consents basis, should allow more rapid but also better urban development, particularly when linked with integrated spatial planning as recommended in the report," says Mr McDonald.

"The focus on fewer regional plans - 14 instead of 100 - will obviously assist with consistent implementation of both acts, while the use of Independent Hearing Panels (IHPs) as used in the Auckland Unitary Plan process will reduce consultation, timeframes and problematic objectors. Getting that balance right will be critical in the new acts as New Zealanders rightfully like to have their say, but the needle has been too far in the favour of objectors.

"Differentiating between significant and minor effects in consenting and simplifying urban development rules will also be welcomed by our members but just as critical will be the national environmental standards and the stronger monitoring and enforcement as that will remove uncertainty and reinforce behaviours and standards."

Mr McDonald says details around allocation of resources and codifying the precautionary principle are likely sticking points in the recommendations, while the report remained silent on critical issues around funding local government to manage these changes and governance of things like the planning process - both were outside the remit of the report.

"Reform of the RMA is also one of the EMA’s key policy platforms for the election as we continue to see workarounds to the Act, such as the 11 identified fast-track consents for large infrastructure projects. Removing current RMA handbrakes will be critical to the post-COVID transformation of New Zealand’s economy giving greater urgency post-election to moving ahead with these recommendations."

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