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District Council concerned at speed of RMA reform

A submission by the Marlborough District Council on the Exposure Draft of the Natural & Built Environments Bill (NBA) has expressed concern at the pace and scale of the reform proposed.

The Council is one of a number of councils around the country to submit on the draft bill to the Environment Select Committee. Marlborough Mayor John Leggett and key Council staff spoke to the submission yesterday in front of the Select Committee.

Mayor Leggett said the Council was concerned at the pace of the reform given that it was a major overhaul of the existing system.

“There needs to be education of all participants in the resource management system to ensure that the extent of the change is well understood. Otherwise, the implementation will fail,” he said.

“There also needs to be sufficient time to transition from the current planning and management regime to that which is ultimately contained within the NBA. We are already navigating the Three Waters Reform which, regardless of the outcome, creates disruption in local government and will undoubtedly have an effect on each council’s ability to implement a new planning regime,” he said.

The Reform of the Resource Management Act 1991 is a major undertaking and will significantly alter the way that local government delivers its resource management functions, states the Council’s submission.

There is a significant amount of work left to be done and it is difficult to provide comprehensive submissions when the draft contains so little detail. Time must be taken to carefully think through the implications of such extensive reform to avoid unintended consequences, said the Council in its submission.

Mayor Leggett said the Council does accept, though, that the RMA system has become increasingly complex, slow and costly. “We would welcome measures to address this,” he said.

The Council has also made it clear to the Select Committee that it does not support a single combined plan for the Top of the South/Te Tau Ihu, as suggested by the Randerson Report. “There was neither justification nor analysis for this proposal within the report itself, a matter that has been raised directly with the Minister,” said Mayor Leggett.

The Marlborough District Council, as a unitary authority, has the responsibilities of both a regional and a territorial authority for the whole of Marlborough. Its Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan, publicly notified in 2016, is a combined regional policy statement, a regional coastal plan, a regional plan and a district plan all in one.

“This plan structure is unique in the country. We know that this style of integrated planning has benefits for our community to simplify planning and reduce costs, and to improve outcomes for the environment,” said Mayor Leggett.

The Marlborough District Council, along with the Nelson City Council (NCC) and Tasman District Council (TDC), has collectively expressed a concern regarding this proposal with the Minister.

“We do not have any shared freshwater catchments. We have two alpine mountain ranges and a lot of land on our boundary that is managed by the Department of Conservation. There is next to no combined use of resources between us and Nelson/Tasman,” said Mayor Leggett.

“Both regions have unique environments and distinct communities. Our PMEP takes account of that and allows us to respond to and manage the resource management issues that exist for us here in Marlborough,” he said.

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