The Government announced yesterday a two-stage review of the Resource Management Act 1991 (‘RMA’) to initiate its long-signalled reforms. The Hon. David Parker as Minister for the Environment has said the RMA is “underperforming in some critical areas”, citing declining freshwater quality, inadequate climate change adaptation, and housing unaffordability.
The first of these two stages is set to commence early next year, with a bill to be introduced to Parliament which is intended to reduce complexity, increase certainty and introduce a number of “simple changes”. The focus of this will be to wind back some of the previous Government’s 2017 amendments (particularly those which restricted submission and appeal rights), although some more general ‘tidy-ups’ are also proposed. This bill will include:
Most significantly there is a new proposal to introduce the ability to challenge Council notification decisions in the Environment Court and seek a declaration in lieu of judicially review, which has been the traditional recourse. While the draft bill is yet to be finalised or released to the public, once it is introduced to Parliament there will be an opportunity to make submissions on these changes next year.
The second stage is set to commence later next year and is intended to be a more comprehensive review of the resource management system. It will involve far wider consultation and will focus on five key areas:
The New Zealand Labour Party campaigned on an policy to convene a panel of resource management, process and public participation experts to evaluate the collective outcome of amendments to the RMA since it was passed in 1991. It was envisaged that such a review would tease out inconsistencies with other statutes, and lead to amendments to rationalise the processes under the RMA and repeal what were labelled as ‘objectionable changes’ made over the past 26 years. Whilst not explicitly stated, it appears that the second stage may encompass this review.
Stage two looks like it could be an ambitious plan and we’ll be watching carefully for what looks to be one of the more significant amendments to the RMA since its passage.
Further details can be found on the Ministry for the Environment’s website here.
If you have any questions about this topic, or any resource management issues we can help with, please do not hesitate to contact Nicky McIndoe, Christina Sheard, Marija Batistich.
This article was written by Joe Bergin, Solicitor, in our Environment and Planning team.