By: Imogen Edwards
Published: 29/11/2016
Resource Legislation Amendment Bill
 
Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith recently announced that the Māori Party will support the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill enabling the Bill to progress through the Parliamentary process. These reforms were first introduced in November last year and Wynn Williams published an article regarding the proposed reforms which you can read here: http://www.wynnwilliams.co.nz/Publications/Articles/Environmental-reforms-a-paradigm-shift.
 
Opposition from other parties has hampered the process thus far, with opposition MPs refusing to grant a fourth extension to the deadline for reporting on the Bill. However, with the Māori Party's support, the Bill will now be re-referred to the Select Committee to refine the Bill's drafting.

The Māori Party advocated for enhanced iwi participation under the Bill, which has led to the inclusion of the Mana Whakahono ā Rohe / Iwi Participation Arrangement to enable iwi and councils to agree the terms of iwi involvement in resource management processes.  While this is considered good practice and many councils have such arrangements in place through Treaty settlements, formalising the process will ensure 'better outcomes with less delays and costs' according to the Government.
 
In addition, the reforms include:
  • National planning templates designed to reduce complexity and 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
  • More generous compensation for land required for public works
  • Better alignment with other Acts, such as Reserves Act, Conservation Act and EEZ legislation
  • Collaborative planning process to encourage community-led solutions
  • Improved Māori participation arrangements
 
See the full release by the Beehive here: https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/policy-agreement-reached-resource-bill
 
There are some concerns that the Bill significantly increases Ministerial powers to interfere in district and regional plans and limits the ability of the public to comment on plans and resource consents. Rather than streamlining the planning process, there are concerns that the implementation of the Resource Management Act 1991 will become more complex and litigious.
 
The Select Committee is due to report back on the re-referred Bill in May 2017.  From there, the Bill will proceed to its second and third reading. 
 
National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity

The proposed National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity (NPS-UDC) was publicly notified back in June 2016.  In conjunction with the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill, it is intended that the NPS-UDC will increase the supply and affordability of housing in New Zealand. Wynn Williams published an article outlining the proposed changes and what those changes could mean to those in the Resource Management industry, which you can view here: http://www.wynnwilliams.co.nz/Publications/Articles/Urban-Policy-Statement-on-Urban-Development-Capaci

A total of 140 submissions were received on the notified NPS-UDC and those submissions have subsequently informed the development of the NPS-UDC.  The scope and content of the notified NPS-UDC is largely retained in the final product, with a few changes to ensure clarity of meaning and the inclusion of a review provision in 2021.  The NPS-UDC will now come into effect on 1 December 2016.

The NPS-UDC requires local authorities to ensure that their region or district has sufficient development capacity by identifying different targets for high-growth and medium-growth urban areas, and provides direction under the following headings:
  • Outcomes for planning decisions;
  • Evidence and monitoring to support planning decisions;
  • Responsive planning; and
  • Coordinated planning evidence and decision-making.
 
The objectives apply to all decision-makers when making planning decisions that affect an urban environment.  Urban environment is defined as an area of land containing, or intended to contain, a concentrated settlement of 10,000 people or more and any associated business land, irrespective of local authority or statistical boundaries.

The NPS-UDC establishes a hierarchy of obligations, based on the level of growth anticipated in an area. Certain policies relating to outcomes for planning decisions apply to any urban environment that is expected to experience growth, while additional policies apply to local authorities with medium-growth urban areas or high-growth urban areas within their district or region as defined in the NPS-UDC.

The current high-growth urban areas are Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton, Queenstown and Tauranga.  Medium-growth urban areas are Kapiti, Nelson, New Plymouth, Palmerston North and Wellington.

The NPS-UDC prescribes timeframes within which certain objectives and policies must be given effect. Specifically, the objectives and policies which relate to outcomes for planning decisions, policies relating to responsive planning and policies relating to coordinated planning evidence and decision-making must be given effect immediately.  The other policies must be given effect over a period ranging from within the next 6 months to the end of 2018, depending on whether a local authority has high-growth or medium-growth urban areas within their district or region.

Given that regional policy statements, regional plans and district plans are all required to give effect to National Policy Statements, local authorities will need to ensure that their planning documents and processes will meet the NPS-UDC requirements.  This may involve plan changes or plan reviews, so look out for these processes in your urban area to ensure you can have a say on how the NPS-UDS is given effect to in your area.  You can find the NPS-UDC in full on the Ministry for the Environment's website: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/
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