“This Bill is about reducing the bureaucracy that gets in the way of creating jobs, building houses, and good environmental management. It provides for greater national consistency, more responsive planning, simplified consenting and better alignment with other laws,” Dr Smith says.
The 180-page Resource Legislation Amendment Bill comprises 40 changes contained in 235 clauses and eight schedules. It makes changes to the Resource Management Act 1991, the Reserves Act 1977, the Public Works Act 1981, the Conservation Act 1987, the Environmental Protection Authority Act 2011, and the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012.
“The Bill addresses the significant problems with the cumbersome planning processes of the Resource Management Act highlighted in recent reports by the OECD, Local Government New Zealand, the Rules Reduction Taskforce and the Productivity Commission. Standard planning templates will be introduced so we don't have every council reinventing the wheel and having dozens of different ways of measuring the height of a building. Plan-making, which currently take six years, will be sped up and made more flexible. A new collaborative planning process will encourage different interests to work with councils on finding solutions to local resource problems,” Dr Smith says.
“The Bill simplifies the consenting process. It narrows the parties that must be consulted to those directly affected – meaning a homeowner extending a deck only has to consult the affected neighbour. Councils will have discretion to not require resource consent for minor issues. A new 10-day fast-track consent will be available for simple issues. Councils will be required to have fixed fees for standard consents so that homeowners have certainty over costs. Consents will no longer be required for activities that are already properly regulated by other Acts. These measures will reduce the number of consents required each year by thousands.
“This Bill will deliver improved environmental management. It will enable national regulations that require stock like dairy cows to be fenced out of rivers and lakes, with instant fines for breaches. It strengthens the requirements for managing natural hazards like earthquakes and sea level rise from climate change. It requires decommissioning plans for offshore oil and gas rigs. It will improve the transparency of New Zealand's clean, green brand by ensuring consistency in council environmental reporting on issues like air and water quality.
“The Bill contains dozens of provisions that will improve the process of resource management decisions. There will be millions of dollars in savings from simpler, plain language public notices that enable the detailed information on plans and consents to be accessed on the web. The Bill recognises email communications and online filing. It also encourages early dispute resolution on cases appealed to the Environment Court.”
The introduction of this Bill has the support of the MÄori Party after intensive discussions over several months. Some reform proposals, including changes to sections six and seven, are not in the Bill. The proposals consulted on publicly in 2013 on improved MÄori participation in resource management have been included in response to the MÄori Party’s strong advocacy. Discussions between the National and MÄori Parties will continue in response to public submissions and debate as the Bill progresses through Parliament. National will also be seeking the support of other parties in Parliament, noting that all but the Greens have publicly stated that they recognise the need for reform.
“This is a moderate reform Bill that will reduce the cost and delays for homeowners and businesses, as well as improve New Zealand’s planning and environmental controls. I thank the MÄori Party for their support that will enable this large and complex Bill to pass its first reading and be referred to select committee. We look forward to hearing public submissions on the detail so we can deliver on our shared objective of reducing unnecessary bureaucracy, while ensuring we have good systems to protect the environment,” Dr Smith concluded.