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Feds: Fix, don’t smash, the RMA

Federated Farmers is urging the Government not to try and push through a radical reform of the Resource Management Act during the current pandemic.

Vice-President Karen Williams led a Federated Farmers team presenting to the Environment Select Committee this afternoon and agreed all is not well with one of our most important pieces of legislation.

"But before we replace the RMA let’s make sure the new legislation will drive better outcomes. We should keep what isn’t broken."

The Government is proposing a drastic overhaul of New Zealand’s resource management framework with its Natural and Built Environments Bill.

"But from what we can see in the skeleton of the Bill available so far, things will be much worse, communities will be robbed of their ability to have their say on matters that affect them, there will be disruption to society and the economy, and the environment will be no better off," Karen said.

"A big problem is not just with what we have seen to date but what is yet to come. We’ve only seen the bare bones of the proposed Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA) and nothing of the other two pivotal Acts that are proposed to replace the RMA - the Strategic Planning Act and the Climate Change Adaption Act.

"We are effectively running blind at the moment due to a lack of detail," Karen said.

At this stage there is no guarantee at all that the Bill will generate more benefits than costs - and indeed there is a significant risk of the reverse.

Uncertainty about what the purpose statement in the Bill actually means will flow down and impact timing of plan decisions, consent reviews and potentially the issuing of new consents.

"We must not under-estimate the costs of delay and the risk of drawn-out litigation that could stem from that lack of clarity. Large chunks of the economy are underpinned by consents and related resource management processes," Karen said.

"Just a half percent negative impact on productive sector costs could be as much as $810 million."

The Federated Farmers submission included suggested changes to Part 2 of the Bill (the purpose and related provisions), to turn it back to the terminology and concepts in the RMA.

"Our intention is to ensure that 30 years’ of case law and jurisprudence is not lost. We don’t want to spend the next 30 years trying to work out what Part 2 of the NBA actually means," Karen said.

Federated Farmers said any replacement legislation needed to keep local democracy, community stewardship and local identity. They belong at the heart of resource management.

"The government needs to slow down and give people time to consider a more fully fleshed out Bill, outside of the current pandemic."

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