National gets Maori agreement to advance RMA reforms

The National majority in the Government and its Maori Party partners have reached agreement on policy issues in the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill. Environment Minister Nick Smith said yesterday this would enable the bill to pass its second & third readings.

Dr Smith said: “This legislation is critical to the Government’s programme of improving New Zealand’s environmental management, increasing the supply & affordability of housing and supporting economic growth. This is the most comprehensive package of reform to the Resource Management Act since its inception 25 years ago, and it is welcome news that we have the parliamentary support to put these 40 changes into law.”

He listed the 12 major provisions in the bill, which is part of the second phase of the Government’s resource management reforms:

  • National planning standards to reduce complexity & cost
  • Streamlined planning process to improve responsiveness
  • Discretion for councils to exempt an activity from consents
  • Strengthening of requirements to manage natural hazard risks
  • New 10-day consent category for minor activities
  • New requirements for council to free up land for housing
  • New provisions to enable stock exclusion from waterways
  • New provisions requiring decommissioning plans for offshore platforms
  • More generous compensation for land required for public works
  • Better alignment with other acts like Reserves, Conservation & Exclusive Economic Zone
  • Collaborative planning process to encourage community-led solutions, and
  • Improved Maori participation arrangements.

“The Maori Party has strongly advocated for improved iwi participation. This has been achieved through including the mana whakahono a rohe/iwi participation arrangement in the bill. This enables iwi & councils to enter into agreements on how iwi can be involved in resource management processes, so as to ensure their perspective is heard & understood. Many councils already have these agreements through Treaty settlements or good practice. The Government supports these provisions because we want iwi involved in how natural resources are managed and because formalising the process will help achieve better outcomes with less delays & costs.”

The Government first proposed the reforms in the bill in 2013, but couldn’t advance them when it couldn’t secure enough parliamentary support. National introduced a revised bill without the controversial changes to the purpose of the act last December, with the support of the Maori Party for the first reading but subject to further discussion on significant issues such as the iwi participation arrangements.

Submissions were heard on the bill from April to June, and the select committee received 2 departmental reports – one in August and the latest last week. Opposition parties refused an extension last week of the select committee report-back date beyond 7 November, so it was reported pro forma. The Government will refer the bill back to the select committee again today.

Dr Smith said: “The select committee has a major task ahead to work through the 500-page departmental report and refine the drafting of the bill. The Government wants to advance the legislation as quickly as possible, but this is an area of law where getting the detail right is particularly important. It may be completed this year, but may flow into early next year. We will also need to consult with the Maori Party on the detailed drafting when the bill is reported back to Parliament to ensure it is consistent with the agreed policy.”

Resource Legislation Amendment Bill Q&As.pdf (pdf 298.25 KB)

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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