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The Resource Management Review Panel has released an issues and options paper for the comprehensive review of the resource management system and has invited feedback.

The RMA has long been the convenient whipping boy for developers and environmentalists alike, so now is your chance to help shape what looks set to be fairly substantial changes to the resource management system. You can read a copy of the Paper here.

In a statement about the Paper, Minister for the Environment David Parker said “the RMA is responsible for managing our built and natural environment, and it has been underperforming”. Minister Parker noted that “it costs too much, it takes too long and has not protected the environment. That is not an acceptable outcome in a country that values the protection of the environment while properly housing our people".

The Paper starts the conversation about the issues that need to be considered and addressed by the review. Fourteen issues are identified along with potential options for reform and a list of questions to address in your feedback. The issues are very broad and open the door for significant changes to the current legal framework. A brief summary of just a few of the key issues is set out below.

Legislative architecture: Separating environmental protection from land use planning and development into different statutes is potentially on the cards. This change has been mooted as a solution to criticism that integration of the statutory frameworks for land use planning and environmental protection under the RMA has led to poor outcomes for both the built and natural environment.

Purpose and principles of the RMA: The concept of sustainable management has been criticised by some as lacking sufficient focus on improving, restoring or enhancing environmental quality. Others argue that Part 2 contains insufficient strategic focus on housing and infrastructure development. Potential options for reform include reframing sections 5, 6 and 7 to more clearly provide for outcomes-based planning as well as requiring the establishment of explicit environmental limits. Feedback is also sought on potential options for recognising Te Mana o te Wai in Part 2.

Recognising Te Tiriti o Waitangi and te ao Māori: Potential options for giving greater weight to Te Tiriti o Waitangi include strengthening the reference to the Treaty in section 8, clarifying the meaning of iwi authorities and hapū, providing funding mechanisms to support Māori participation and regular auditing of council performance in meeting Treaty requirements.

Addressing climate change: The Climate Change Response Act is currently the main framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Feedback is sought as to whether the RMA should also be used to address climate change mitigation. Options could include a requirement for plan rules and/or consents for activities which emit substantial quantities of greenhouse gases to consider climate change implications. Other options include adding a reference to climate change mitigation in Part 2 (which currently only references climate change adaption), creating a more permissive regime for activities necessary to transition to a low emissions economy, or developing a new National Environmental Standard to target particular emissions-intensive activities unlikely to be deterred by emissions pricing.

Next steps

Feedback must be submitted by Monday 3 February 2020. The Panel’s request for feedback signals a real willingness to hear and learn from those with practical experience working with the RMA. Our Environment and Planning Team, headed by Christina Sheard, Nicky McIndoe and Marija Batistich can help you make your views heard including identifying opportunities to engage with the Panel. Given the wide ranging options identified, you have a unique chance to influence and shape the reform.



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