By: Lucy de Latour
Published: 11/11/2013
 
Reform in the resource management field continues with the announcement on 7 November 2013 of proposed changes to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2011 ("NPS"). This RMA reform update relates to the proposed amendments to the NPS; along with an update on the Resource Management Amendment Act 2013 (and changes to section 32 which come into force in December); and the further RMA reform signalled by the Government.

Amendments to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management

A range of significant changes to the NPS were announced by the Minister for the Environment, Hon Amy Adams, on 7 November 2013.

A discussion document regarding the amendments has been released and can be found here: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/water/proposed-amendments-nps-freshwater-management/index.html.1

The NPS discussion document sets out a range of proposed amendments to the NPS including establishing a National Objectives Framework; new requirements for regional councils to develop monitoring plans; and new proposed freshwater accounting systems. 

The National Objectives Framework establishes a proposed new framework for regional councils to establish freshwater objectives for the specified national values. There are two compulsory national values, "ecosystem health" and "human health for secondary contact". The other proposed national values include mahinga kai, water supply, fishing, animal drinking water, irrigation, hydro-electric power generation and contact recreation.

Regional councils will be required under the new framework to identify what national values each freshwater management unit (a change away from the previous water body approach) supports and set an "attribute state" for each attribute. 

The proposed changes to the NPS, in particular the new National Objectives Framework, are complex and will have wide ranging implications.   Submissions on the discussion document and proposed amendments to the NPS close on 4 February 2014.

Resource Management Amendment Act 2013

The Resource Management Amendment Act 2013 ("Amendment Act") was enacted on 3 September 2013.  The Amendment Act introduces a suite of changes to RMA processes, including in relation to some resource consenting processes and also plan making processes.

Various changes to consenting processes, including new Schedule 4 requirements, will come into force at a later date, to be determined by a subsequent Order in Council.

One of the more significant changes to the Act is a new section 32, which new plans and plan changes must be assessed against.  The changes to section 32 include a new requirement that when assessing the costs and benefits of the effects anticipated for the proposal that the opportunities for economic growth and employment be assessed. The Amendment Act also introduces a new section 32AA which sets out requirements for undertaking further evaluations under section 32 before a decision is made on the proposed plan or plan change.

The new section 32 provisions come into force on 4 December 2013.  From that date, any proposed plans or plan changes that have not passed the date for making further submissions must be evaluated in accordance with the new section 32 provisions.

Further RMA reform

The Government's latest position on further reform to the RMA was set out in August 2013 with the release of the "Resource Management – Summary of Reform Proposals 2013" - http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/rma/resource-management-summary-reform-proposals.pdf.

The document signals a range of further changes to the RMA.  These include:
  1. Consolidation of sections 6 and 7, including introducing new matters of national importance.
  2. A new national planning template setting out the structure and key content that all councils must follow when developing their plans.
  3. New requirements for councils to work together to produce single resource management plans and new proposed planning procedures.
  4. Changes to encourage earlier and more effective iwi/hapū participation.
  5. New consenting procedures aimed at simplifying consent processes and reducing timeframes for simpler consents.
There has been a mixed reaction to the proposed changes, and while the Minister for the Environment stated that the reforms set out in the document will become a Resource Management Reform Bill to be introduced in 2013, it remains to be seen whether the Bill will in fact be introduced this year.

Once it is introduced people will have a further opportunity to comment and submit on the reform proposals through the Select Committee process.  We will provide a further RM reform update when the Bill is introduced. 

Conclusion

If you have any questions about any of the changes to the RMA or the NPS, and how these may impact you and your business, please contact one of our team to discuss.


1 The latest document follows the suite of proposals outlined in the document Freshwater reform 2013 and beyond, which was released in March 2013 (http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/water/freshwater-reform-2013/).  Further amendments to the RMA are proposed (in the form a further reform Bill) to implement all of the recommendations outlined in Freshwater reform document.  We discuss some of the other proposed amendments to the RMA below.

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