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Simplifying and Streamlining in the information age - are we focusing on the right things?
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By: Lucy de Latour
The following article appeared in the August 2014 edition of the Resource Management Journal (August 2014 RMJ)
The Resource Management Act 1991 (the RMA) relies on public participation to inform council plan- making, principally in the form of consultation under clause 3 of Schedule 1, the submission and further submission processes, and through appeals to the Environment Court. District and regional plans are documents that people “order their lives by” and so it is of paramount importance that the public are given the opportunity to be involved in the processes to establish those plans.
However, at times RMA processes, particularly in respect of plan making, can become unduly long and protracted. When this happens (and it occurs for many reasons) criticism is often levelled at the RMA, including the Schedule 1 process.
Over the past five or so years, particular focus has been given to ways that the RMA can be simplified or improved in order to reduce such delays. While a number of changes have been made to the Schedule 1 process since the RMA was enacted, recent proposals to amend the procedural aspects of the Act have focused on more substantive matters, such as the limiting of appeals to the Environment Court, rather than addressing potential changes to how the Schedule 1 process (as implemented by councils) could be improved.
In addition, the way we share information has changed considerably since 1991. Most people no longer rely on public notices to be informed about council processes, and the post has assumed less significance. In light of the changes in technology and the way we now share information, this article explores some of the changes that could be made to the Schedule 1 process, in order to simplify and streamline the RMA. Some of the ideas considered are the ways in which electronic service could be utilised when notifying new planning proposals under clause 5 of Schedule 1, and a proposed requirement for a centralised website containing the public notices and other relevant information in relation to all “active” planning matters across the country.
This article was published in full in the Resource Management Journal. Please download the pdf to read more.
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