Minister for the Environment, Hon. Amy Adams released a discussion document on the next phase of reforms to the Resource Management Act 1991 (the "RMA") on 28 February 2013. Further reforms to the RMA had been anticipated following amendments made in 2009 to simplify and streamline parts of the Act.
The current proposals are relatively broad, and focus on six key areas:
greater national consistency and guidance;
fewer, better resource management plans;
an effective and efficient consenting system;
better natural hazard management;
effective and meaningful Māori participation; and
working with councils to improve their RMA service performance.
The proposals raise controversial issues, such as the role of central government in the planning regime. Suggested changes would involve greater direction from central government in the development of plans. Proposals include aims to create greater national consistency between plans through central government directing the development of single district plans, standardising the formatting of plans, promulgating consistent terms and definitions, and significantly, providing nationally consistent content for district and city plans relating to specific zones and activities. These proposals have the potential to simplify the planning process, particularly for lay submitters and those operating in several different districts or regions.
Other proposals are likely to be as contentious, such as those touching on appeal processes, the balance of emphasis placed on positive and adverse effects, including the economic considerations, or the suggestion of different processes for certain types of consent applications.
At this stage, the proposals are a discussion document only, and as such, the government is seeking feedback on them. Anyone can lodge a submission on the discussion document, which can be found here
. Submissions must be lodged before 5pm, 2 April 2013.
Feel free to come in and discuss the document with our team if you are considering lodging a submission, or if you would like to know more about the potential impacts of the proposals.
Also keep an eye out for water reform proposals, which are expected to be released shortly.