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A Voice For Business In The RMA Reform Legislation

A potentially significant voice for the business sectors and possibly more straightforward consenting processes are a welcome inclusion in the new acts to replace the old Resource Management Act, announced today by Environment Minister David Parker, says the EMA.

The draft Natural and Built Environment Act (NBEA) and the draft Spatial Planning Act (SPA) were unveiled for consultation following a lock-up session at Parliament this morning.

"If the system works as promised then it should be more straightforward for the business, infrastructure, building and economic development communities to get the consents they need to make progress more quickly," says EMA Head of Advocacy and Strategy, Alan McDonald.

"A key step in smoothing that process is the voice for those communities now written into the SPA development process. It’s a bit technical, but our concern was that the development and infrastructure outcomes listed in the NBEA couldn’t be achieved unless there was a voice for those sectors to be heard by the committees developing the country’s 15 spatial plans.

"Originally, those plans would have been developed by committees only made up of central and local Government and iwi. Now, those committees must consult with representatives of the business community to get their voice into the SPAs.

"Getting the business voice into SPAs brings those interests to the table in developing the plans, which should make consenting easier if activity fits with the scope of the Plans and then leads to the outcomes stated in the NBEA.

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"That should be an easier consenting process with more certainty, and hopefully lower costs."

A third act, the Climate Adaptation Act will follow in 2023 with the three acts replacing the old RMA system.

"Three acts replacing one seems inherently clunky, so implementation and the interaction of the three - which has yet to be fully revealed - will be critical in achieving the goals of a faster more efficient system that also gives better protection for the environment.

"It was the obvious degrading of the environment, identified in a report commissioned by the EMA, InfrastructureNZ and Property Council NZ, along with the handbrake on business development under the old RMA that prompted our joint campaign for reform six years ago. BusinessNZ also joined this group.

"That piece of work from Gary Taylor’s team at the Environmental Defence Society led to a partnership that helped convince all the main political parties that reform was needed.

"Now we have the first piece."

Mr McDonald said concerns remained about the reform and its implementation, especially around the 10-year time frame for transition and the fact that two of the main parties behind the eventual breakdown of the RMA system were again charged with running the new reforms.

"For a piece of legislation that is critical to the national building of New Zealand’s future we also would have expected a longer consultation period. We simply must get this right.

"The new system does reduce the number of plans across the country from about 100 to 15 and does give firm national direction from Central Government which should reduce the myriad of interpretations from Local Government that we saw under the old RMA.

"That should aid faster development of critical infrastructure and housing projects.

"Established jurisprudence will also be retained in some areas giving firm, existing legal guidance to aid the implementation of the new Acts.

"We welcome the reform and its stated goals but, as with any new Act or Acts, the success or failure will be in the implementation and the detail."

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