This increased focus on national direction is consistent with the greater role for central government in planning decisions proposed in the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill. Read our previous article about the Bill here.
The Ministry for the Environment (‘MfE’) has explained that topics will qualify for “national direction” if they involve significant national-level benefits or costs; would deliver significant benefits by having a consistent approach; or where it is more effective and efficient to address the issue at a national level. National direction can take the form of regulations, national environmental standards or national policy statements under the Resource Management Act 1991 (‘RMA’).
MfE has released a list of current and upcoming national direction priorities for 2016-2018. While consultation is already complete for some of these workstreams, there is still an opportunity for you to have input on others.
National direction priorities to look out for in 2017 include:
- Aquaculture. The Government has indicated that national direction in this space will be provided via a national environmental standard and amendments to the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010. Its purpose will be to provide nationally consistent rules for coastal plans, including simpler re-consenting provisions for existing marine farms. This workstream is being led by the Ministry for Primary Industries (‘MPI’) and public consultation is set to occur in mid-2017, with decisions expected to be finalised in 2018. In addition, MPI is leading a proposal to amend the Marlborough Sounds Resource Management Plan, to allow for the relocation of up to 6 of King Salmon’s marine farms. Consultation on the proposal is open from 26 January 2017 until 27 March 2017. More information is available on the MPI website.
- Plantation forestry. As outlined in our previous newsflash, a new national environmental standard for plantation forestry activities (determining when an activity is permitted or requires resource consent), will supersede rules for plantation forestry in district or regional plans. Public consultation has already taken place and a final decision is due early 2017.
- Freshwater management. A number of proposals for freshwater reform are contained in the Government’s consultation paper “Next steps for freshwater”. These include changes to the current National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2014, to improve directions to councils regulating water quality in their catchments. The proposals also call for more economic use of freshwater, and greater consideration of iwi rights and interests in freshwater. The Government is currently considering submissions on the proposals from the latest public consultation stage to inform specific policy options. A second round of public consultation on the specific options is planned for early 2017.
- Stock exclusion. As part of the freshwater reforms, nationally consistent regulations to exclude stock from waterways have been proposed. Regulations excluding dairy cattle on milking platforms and pigs from water bodies are due in July 2017, to be extended to dairy support, beef cattle and deer at a later date to give farmers time to comply.
- Pest control. National direction in this area will be delivered via new regulations to standardise and simplify the regulatory regime for vertebrate toxic agents (substances used for managing or eradicating vertebrate pests). The regulations will remove duplication between the RMA, the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, and the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act 1997, by removing the need to apply for resource consent to apply certain toxic agents. Consultation closed in May 2016 and a decision is expected in early 2017.
- Contaminants in soil. The Government has carried out a review of the Resource Management (National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health) Regulations 2011. A number of changes have been proposed, in order to make the system more effective and address increased costs and delays during the development of land that is at low risk of contamination. These include: rewording the Hazardous Activities and Industries List categories to increase consistency, applying a more risk-based approach when deciding if the standard applies to a parcel of land, and removing resource consent requirements for low-risk activities. Consultation ended in October 2016 and a decision is expected in mid-2017. (The Contaminated Land Management Guidelines 1 and 5 have also been revised as part of the review and are expected to be gazetted in early 2017.)
- Air quality. The Government is reviewing the Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Air Quality) Regulations 2004, in particular the provisions relating to particulate matter to reflect the costs of compliance and current science on health impacts. A discussion document for consultation is expected later in 2017.
If you would like to discuss the implications of any of the national directions discussed above on your current and future business, or if you would like assistance making a submission during the consultation stage, please contact Nicky McIndoe, or Ezekiel Hudspith.
This article was authored by Jessica Orsman, Solicitor in our Environment and Planning team.
 Ministry for the Environment A Way Forward for National Direction (September 2016).
 See http://www.mfe.govt.nz/rma/rma-legislative-tools/priorities-national-direction