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The Government has announced its proposed overhaul of New Zealand’s resource management legislation. The process will not be simple or quick, exposing Labour to criticism that it is now too late in the electoral cycle to get the reforms through before the next election. Nevertheless, it does offer the opportunity for interested parties to influence change, if they are prepared to act quickly.

While there seems to be general consensus that a review of the RMA is needed, achieving political alignment on the extent and content of the reforms is likely to be challenging. Labour has chosen a ‘middle ground’ option opting to focus on amendments to the RMA and specifically identified associated legislation, as opposed to a wholesale rewrite of the complete suite of resource management related legislation as recommended by the Productivity Commission. National’s Judith Collins has already signalled her view that the better approach to RMA reform would be to “take it out the back and shoot it”.

What will the reforms cover?

Topics up for consideration include:

  • Removing unnecessary complexity from the RMA;
  • Clarifying the role of the purpose and principles in Part 2 of the RMA;
  • Creating a specific role for spatial planning;
  • Reviewing RMA functions to ensure they are efficient, effective and coherent including those of MfE, DOC, the EPA, regional and territorial authorities, the Environment Court and quasi-judicial bodies;
  • Addressing climate change in line with the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act one passed;
  • Ensuring urban tree protection; and
  • Ensuring Maori have a role in the resource management system.

For further information click here to read the Cabinet Paper outlining the various options for the review and here for the draft terms of reference for the EAG.

The process

The first step will be the establishment of an Expert Advisory Group (EAG) chaired by Retired Court of Appeal Judge Hon Tony Randerson. The EAG will be very busy whistling through two initial phases of consultation with targeted groups with the objective of producing a concrete proposal report by mid-2020. A third phase of broader public consultation will follow Cabinet’s consideration of the proposals developed by the EAG.  Parties who want to get in on the ‘ground floor’ of the process will need to move quickly.

What next?

It is too early to tell exactly where the RMA reform journey will end up but it is bound to be an interesting ride. The RMA has been amended 18 times since 1991 and is now 798 pages long, nearly double its original length. Minister Parker said he hopes to halve the length of the RMA, returning it to around 400 pages. Reducing the length of this complex piece of legislation while also addressing the matters set out in the EAG’s terms of reference will be challenging.

Now is your chance to influence the outcome of this far reaching review which will set the framework for resource management throughout the country. Our Public Law Team headed by Hayden Wilson and Linda Clark, with the assistance of our Environment and Planning Team, are available to work with you to make your views heard early in the process and potentially to engage with the EAG.



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