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Good Progress On RMA Reform But Risk Of Planning Misalignment Very Real

“We are pleased to see progress on the repeal and replacement of the Resource Management Act 1991, but the proposal to split land use planning and strategic planning risks increasing uncertainty for the Government, iwi, communities of interest and infrastructure providers,” says Hamish Glenn, Policy Director at Infrastructure New Zealand.

“The proposal outlined by Environment Minister Parker today retains the basic legislative architecture recommended by the Randerson Review Panel last year.

“A new Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA) will replace the body of the RMA, but will retain the RMA’s combined approach to environmental protection and land use planning. A new Strategic Planning Act will consolidate functions currently spread across the Local Government Act and Land Transport Management Act to enable integrated spatial planning.

“In addition, a new Climate Change Adaptation Act will be established to facilitate managed retreat and other issues resulting from climate change.

“Positively, the Government has moved to reduce the large number of statutory plans required under the RMA and we could in the future see as few as 14 combined plans overseeing land use planning and environmental protection decisions.

“However, the proposal to integrate environmental protection with land use planning means that the Government proposes to continue separating land use planning from strategic planning.

“This will mean that strategic spatial plans agreed by Government, iwi, councils and local communities will have to proceed through a separate legislative process under the NBA before implementation.

“What happens if a project or development critical to realisation of an agreed regional spatial plan conflicts with an outcome or objective under the NBA?

“If the answer is litigation, uncertainty and poor delivery of critical services and homes, then these reforms will have failed.

“A better outcome would be achieved if environmental protection was split from planning, establishing firm bottom lines which truly protect the environment.

“Strategic and land use planning could then be much more tightly integrated to achieve economic, social, cultural and environmental outcomes above and beyond bottom lines.

“Regulation under an Environmental Protection Act would be used to protect the things which cannot to be compromised. Investment under a Planning Act would deliver the kind of New Zealand we all want.

“This simplified architecture would better align with much-needed reforms to funding and financing of public services and improving the capacity and capability of delivery agencies.

“It would also increase the certainty that regionally agreed plans will be delivered as and when required, helping boost confidence in the planning and development system,” Glenn says.

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