30 Mar 2022

By CKL Planning Manager (Tauranga) Mark Batchelor

This article uses material from a recent MFE/NZPI: RMA Reform Update Seminar 10/03/2022 providing a briefing on progress with replacing the RMA.

Death by a thousand cuts was once a form of Chinese torture. Despite the many pieces of environmental legislation and regulation and many individual consents required for projects replaced by the RMA, we have meted this out on the RMA.

The RMA essentially provided a set of national principles and then allowed communities to decide how they regulated and developed their communities by writing and administering plans. Despite this, the communities complained about the outcome.

Continuing changes to the Act have resulted in what was once reasonably easy to interpret and put into practice becoming an increasingly complicated web of plans and procedures, despite these being politically promoted as providing increased efficiency and certainty.

While the changes to the Act have continued, its provision for National Policy Statements became utilised as a means of addressing specific matters not being effectively addressed by council planning. These modify, replace or override provisions of resource management plans. They are an effective additional layer of regulation and process.

This included, controversially, the NPS-Urban Development (NPS-UD) providing standard development rules. Replacing district plan rules blamed (whether correctly or not) by politics as being the cause of difficulties with the housing market, as said by Hon. Judith Collins, ’scale back the resource consent that allows a town planner to tell you how your house should look’…[ref: Hon Collins J Oct 19, 2021, www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_4fEBk6vf8].

In February 2021 the Government announced the RMA will be repealed and replaced by three Acts. These are the ‘Natural and Built Environments Act’ (NBA), the ‘Strategic Planning Act’ (SPA), and the ‘Climate Adaption Act’ (CAA).

The NBA prescribes a national planning framework of strategic and regulatory direction, requiring NBA plans to be prepared by regional councils and to include policy and rules for the region.

District councils and district plans are gone. District and regional functions including planning are to be combined into regional councils and their single plan.

The NMA plans will be guided by Regional Spatial Strategies (Plans!). Is this an effective existing regional and district structure but in a single authority?

The Ministry for the Environment recently provided a description of where the reform process had got to. This is summarised below.

The existing and proposed structures are illustrated below by.

RIP Resource Management Act? Introducing the Natural and Built Environments ActRIP Resource Management Act? Introducing the Natural and Built Environments Act