The National Party has been working steadily towards its latest election policy for most of its 9 years in government: new urban planning laws that would make it easier to build, and faster than the Resource Management Act.
It would incorporate parts of the Local Government Act & the Land Transport Management Act. The Resource Management Act would stay in place for non-urban areas.
But Resource Reform NZ, an alliance of 3 normally National-leaning organisations – the Employers & Manufacturers Association, Infrastructure NZ & the Property Council – plus the Environmental Defence Society, said yesterday the National proposal didn’t go far enough.
They want “an integrated governance, planning, funding & delivery system to guide resource management & national economic development”.
The catchcry: fit for purpose
The ministers releasing the party policy and the Resource Reform alliance used the same term as their base: fit for purpose.
The ministers (now spokespersons for the duration of the election campaign), Steven Joyce on infrastructure & Nick Smith on environment (but apparently not on building & construction) said in their campaign proposal yesterday: “A re-elected National-led government will introduce new fit-for-purpose urban planning laws separate from the Resource Management Act to encourage more responsive planning, faster development & better protection for the environment in our growing cities.
“New Zealand is growing strongly and we want to make it easier to build the housing & infrastructure for that growth while still ensuring our urban environments are some of the most liveable in the world.
“To do that we need to give our cities the ability to adapt & develop faster, while respecting & improving the urban environment – and the current planning system is not allowing that.
“The RMA’s one-size-fits-all approach has restrained the development of our cities, dragged on their economic performance and restricted the supply of much-needed housing & infrastructure.
“So National will establish a fit-for-purpose planning system that allows our cities to evolve in a way that improves the quality of the local environment, and makes them great places to live & work.”
Idea is to separate planning & environmental regulation
Dr Smith said the new planning legislation would have clear & separate objectives for regulating urban & natural environments: “Over the past 9 years we’ve simplified the RMA and made it easier to build, but the RMA is only one part of the planning system, and we have reached the end of what can be done by making incremental changes to the act.
“We agree with a number of stakeholders that it is time to develop fit-for-purpose planning legislation dedicated to urban environments that includes the relevant parts of the Local Government Act & the Land Transport Management Act in one piece of legislation.
“So we will set up separate planning & environmental regulations specifically designed to encourage growth, while tackling the environmental challenges found in cities, such as air pollution & stormwater surges.
“This new legislation will work in parallel with our plan to put in place urban development authorities to redevelop specific brownfields areas in our cities to allow for more housing – the work for which is already underway.”
Dr Smith said National would “keep a close eye” on changes applicable to non-urban & rural areas through the existing Resource Management Act.
“National will start its urban planning reform process by consulting with key stakeholders, local government, iwi, experts & the public to develop fit-for-purpose legislation that works for cities.
“The successful Auckland unitary plan & the independent hearings panel review process shows we can put sensible rules in place that work for everyone. We want to use the same collaborative formula to create an urban planning system that enables growth, gives businesses the confidence to invest and adapts to the changing needs of cities.”
Reformists seek consensus for change, don’t detail their reforms
Resource Reform NZ reform of the resource management system needed to go much further. It recommended that this would be best addressed through cross-party consensus on the issue by a politically independent process, such as a commission.
Infrastructure NZ chief executive Stephen Selwood said: “We know New Zealand’s prosperity is being held back by the current framework the wider planning system operates within. It is no longer fit for purpose, and is why we find ways to work around the current system when we want to deliver the infrastructure that the county so desperately needs.”
Property Council chief executive Connal Townsend said: “The current unco-ordinated planning system is driving increasing housing unaffordability, the high cost of commercial development and reliance on outdated funding mechanisms such as rates & council debt. That means we’re simply not building enough, quickly enough with the quality & innovation needed to develop the cities & standard of living we all expect in the future.”
Environmental Defence Society executive director Gary Taylor said: “The environment is suffering too. The Resource Management Act is our pre-eminent environmental law. Yet the cumulative effects of permitted land use activities over the lifetime of the act have led to a slow but significant deterioration of the quality of our streams, rivers & lakes.”
And the fourth advocate for greater change, Employers & Manufacturers Association chief executive Kim Campbell, said: “For business, these issues are also stifling the ability to grow & expand. Which, in turn, also impacts employees & the families. Looking into the future, we face even bigger challenges in how we manage & respond to demographic changes, advances in technology, rising consumer expectations & climate change.”
Attribution: National & Resource Reform releases.