Archive | Resource management

Judge overturns year-old highrise consent next to heritage substation because of non-notification

High Court judge Rebecca Ellis has set aside a year-old resource consent for a 10-storey 39.5m building Equinox Capital Ltd proposes to build in central Wellington because the owners of a 2-storey heritage-listed former substation next door weren’t notified.

In her decision issued last Wednesday, Justice Ellis wrote: “In summary, I consider: (a) Sydney St Substation Ltd should have been given limited notification of Equinox’s resource consent application; (b) there was a material error in the 14 October 2016 decision not to publicly notify Equinox’s resource consent application; and (c) there were material errors in the 14 October 2016 decision granting Equinox’s resource consent application.

“There have been no matters raised which persuade me I should not exercise my discretion to grant relief here. I therefore make orders setting aside the notification decisions & the substantive resource consent decision, all of which are dated 14 October 2016.”

The dispute concerns buildings (heritage & proposed) a few doors from the courthouse, on what was Sydney St until 1993 and is now Kate Sheppard Place in Thorndon, a street noted for its “Elizabethan & Jacobean” architecture.

The category II heritage building is the old Sydney St substation at 19 Kate Sheppard Place, which has historical significance as one of the first substations constructed to distribute electricity in Wellington after the Mangahao hydro power station began operation in 1924.

Justice Ellis said it also had “some architectural significance due to what has been described as its ‘quirky mixture of architectural styles’”.

The lower of its 2 storeys originally housed the transformers & other substation equipment. The upper level has always been a home. “That unusual & experimental combination of utilitarian & residential design is regarded as adding to its architectural interest. A heritage covenant was placed on the building in 2011.”

In 2013 the Government sold the substation building to Sydney St Substation Ltd, owned by Trevor & Jillian Lord. They renovated & strengthened the building to some acclaim, with the assistance of a Wellington City Council grant. The entirety of the building is now used for residential purposes.

Justice Ellis concluded: “There can be no real doubt that the substation’s heritage value was highly influential in the decision to purchase it, and to renovate it at some expense. To suggest that an adverse effect on the substation’s heritage value does not, equally, adversely affect its owner seems unattractive. So if there is a minor adverse effect on the heritage value of the building there is a minor adverse effect on Sydney St Substation Ltd.

“Even if there is some flaw in that logic, there remains the further & more substantive (“anticipated development model”) issue. The views I have expressed about that strongly support the conclusion that the adverse effects on the owner of the substation (in terms of the matters of which discretion is restricted under rule 13.3.4, namely design, external appearance, siting & placement of building mass) have been understated and are at least minor.

“On any of the above analyses, therefore, Sydney St Substation Ltd was an affected person and should have received limited notification of Equinox’s resource consent application.”

In contrast with the judge’s view, the council notification said: “There are no affected persons in respect of this application (sections 95B/95E). It is noted that neighbours have registered an interest in works occurring on the subject site. Neighbour interest does not deem them to be affected parties under the tests of the act or qualify as special circumstances under the act in this case.”

The judge said most other buildings in the vicinity were multi-level office blocks “of limited street appeal”. The Lords sought judicial review of Wellington City Council’s approval of resource consent “authorising the construction of another such building immediately adjacent to the substation, on a site which is presently a carpark. In short, Sydney St Substation Ltd says that the council was wrong to grant the consent and also wrong to even consider it on a non-notified basis. They say that the substation will be significantly adversely affected by the proposed construction.”

Equinox (Chong Du Cheng & Kerry Knight) has plans for 63 apartments, a 39-room hotel with ground-floor lobby and ground-floor commercial space with a total floor area of 32,422m².

An important factor in the judge’s consideration was that the proposed building would exceed the height limit of 35.4m in the “low city” area, set out in the district plan.

According to the district plan guidelines, “Where a new development adjoins a heritage building that is 4 storeys or less, its height should be not more than one storey above the heritage building, over an area extending approximately 5-8m along & back from the street frontage at the common boundary with the heritage building”.

Link: Substation judgment

Attribution: Judgment.

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RMA reform approved – but central issue of competence still needs work

The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill – Environment Minister Nick Smith’s revision of the Resource Management Act – passed its third reading on Thursday, without the support of Act’s David Seymour or United Future’s Peter Dunne but courtesy of the Maori Party’s 2 votes.

Dr Smith, as usual, mentioned 2 factors at the heart of the changes – the exorbitant rise in Auckland house prices and the many voices demanding a freeing up of land supply.

Also as usual, he refrained from mentioning 2 other factors. The first has come in 2 parts – the immigration spike under Labour in 2003-04, which got supply & demand seriously out of kilter, followed by the longer run of high net immigration under National that started in late 2012 and was well underway in 2014.

The most important factor

The second, and I think most important factor in the whole resource management hubbub, is that the Resource Management Act has been widely condemned but the failure to balance supply & demand falls entirely to incompetence.

The first factor in that incompetence concerns the supply of potential residents. Natural growth is predictable and the supply of migrants can be controlled, at least to some extent. The return of Kiwis from a depressed Australian economy is outside the norm, but ought to have been taken into consideration in the allowance of other migration.

Both Labour in 2003 and National now have used immigration to boost the economy. Their consideration of the impacts has been negligible, until too late.

Through the Regional Growth Forum devised in 1996, expansion of Auckland’s urban footprint was anticipated to allow some of the growth to a population of 2 million over the next 50 years, but the notion of a compact city had arrived and the bulk of growth (70% of it) was expected to occur within the existing metropolitan urban limits.

Quite how another 200,000 homes were to be dropped into place was never quite worked out, but the fact that they’d be needed was evident over 20 years ago.

All very well, but Auckland had 7 territorial councils & one regional council, Auckland City followed by Manukau collected the bulk of the region’s business rates, and the fringe councils (including Waitakere) struggled to supply adequate infrastructure on a diet of residential rates.

The fringe councils looked for ways to increase their rating bases, such as encouraging business, and developers looked to the fringes for cheaper land for housing, only to find themselves entering an intense battle, certainly between regional & local politicians, sometimes also between the competing urges of different localities.

Attempts to expand those urban limits were contested by the Auckland Regional Council, which focused more on environmental protection, although expansion of the limits was envisaged.

The 2003-04 immigration spike necessitated more housing, but the supply was inadequate, and political thinking on what was required was abysmal.

None of the above involves hindsight. Certain measures were plainly required 21 years ago and after 5 years of strong growth – and some of the how-to is still awaiting a decision.

The ability to intensify development has been made easier by Auckland’s new unitary plan, but funding of infrastructure was an issue then and remains largely unresolved today. Sewage overflowed into the harbour then, the issue was recognised, and it still overflows.

Intensification will include more housing redevelopment, not necessarily medium-rise apartment buildings, in suburban streets. The supply of new suburban subdivisions has started via housing accords & special housing areas, but also through standard subdivision.

Smith sees many positive impacts

Enter Dr Smith & the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill. “The reforms in this bill will help increase the supply & affordability of housing, grow the economy with more jobs & higher incomes, support infrastructure investment and improve environmental management,” he said after the third reading was passed on Thursday.

The 700-clause bill makes 40 significant changes to the Resource Management Act, Public Works Act, Conservation Act, Reserves Act and the Exclusive Economic Zone (Environmental Effects) Act. They include:

  • National planning standards to reduce complexity & 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 councils to free up land for housing
  • More generous compensation for land required for public works
  • Better alignment with other acts like Reserves, Conservation & Exclusive Economic Zone
  • Collaborative planning process to encourage community-led solutions, and
  • Improved Maori participation arrangements.

“These reforms will reduce the number of consents required by thousands. Councils will have a new power to waive the need for consents for minor issues, and a new 10-day fast-track consent will be available. This boils down to things like homeowners wanting to build a deck having to consult only with an affected neighbour, and no consent being required for issues that involve minor or temporary rule breaches.

“This Bill is pivotal to resolving New Zealand’s long-term housing supply & affordability problems. The cost of a section in Auckland has increased 10-fold over the past 25 years, from $53,000 to $530,000, as compared to the 3-fold increase in the cost of building, from $120,000 to $360,000. The key solution is making sections easier to create and more affordable. This bill introduces a specific requirement on councils to free up land, removes appeals on residential developments, reverses the presumption in favour of subdivisions and removes the double charging system of financial & development contributions.”

Links:
Resource Legislation Amendment Bill

Text of bill & related supplementary order papers
Nick Smith booklet, 26 November 2015: The second phase of Resource Management Act reform

Earlier stories:
15 March 2017: Bill opponents talk “shambles”, not ideology
15 March 2017: RMA reform bill scrapes through second reading
6 March 2017: RMA amendment back for second reading
10 November 2016: 
National gets Maori agreement to advance RMA reforms
14 March 2016: 
Council says Government approach wrong on resource management reform
27 November 2015: 
RMA reform introduced

Attribution: Ministerial release, growth forum strategy.

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Newman fires up opposition to RMA fix-it law

In January, Building, Construction & Environment Minister Nick Smith wrote to National Party supporters trying to counter an attack on the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill – the Resource Management Act (RMA) fix-it law – by former Act MP & founder of the NZ Centre for Political Research, Muriel Newman.

Dr Newman learned of Dr Smith’s memo in March and wrote scathingly about it on the Centre for Political Research’s website on 12 March.

She was joined by another former Act MP, Wellington public & commercial law specialist Stephen Franks, who described Dr Smith’s attempt at smoothing turbulent waters as “deceptive advice”.

Last week, Dr Newman took the campaign to a wider audience through Sunday newspapers, saying the centre she heads had asked Prime Minister Bill English to stop the bill in its tracks (it’s in the committee stage of the parliamentary process).

Is no consultation “ample”?

On her website she wrote: “Even before our ads have been published, they appear to have brought about a ‘charm offensive’ from the minister for the environment, who has sent out emails to everyone who has contacted him about the bill.

“What’s particularly bizarre in his new email is the claim that not only has there been ample public consultation on the iwi arrangements in the bill over the last 4 years, but that National even campaigned on them at the last election. What he is talking about, of course, are the old measures (iwi participation arrangements) that were originally in the bill.

“The new mana whakahono a rohe cogovernance provisions, that are the cause of so much concern, only made an appearance in public documents in 2016 – in a freshwater discussion paper. They weren’t included in the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill until November last year, 8 months after public submissions had closed. As a result, there has been absolutely no opportunity for public input into the new statutory powers for iwi & hapu in the bill.

“However, this is politics, and it is important to note that the minister decided that the new mana whakahono a rohe agreements in the bill should be given a dual name, so they are now also called iwi participation arrangements – the same name as the old provisions that they replaced!”

Dr Newman, an Act list MP for the party’s first 3 terms, continued to campaign when she left Parliament, especially on Maori- & property-related issues, forming the Centre for Political Research (originally Debate) in 2005.

Stephen Franks – 2-term Act Party list MP, former chair of law firm Chapman Tripp, now running his own specialist public & commercial law firm in Wellington – wrote in an opinion piece for the centre on 12 March: “I’ve been sent an astonishing memo to caucus from the unfortunate minister now carrying this bill (Nick Smith). In my opinion it treats caucus with contempt. My corrections to it are set out below. It seems bizarre that National members are being obliged to support this bill so near to the election. Why stick up voters’ noses now some of the least defensible law-making National could design?”

And he concluded: “The provisions are a major constitutional change. They subordinate powers entrusted to elected local governments, in deliberately obscure words, to racially inherited power, beyond the reach of electoral recall.

“They breach a longstanding convention that treaty obligations ran between the Crown & iwi, so that private citizens & their property were not to be the victims of treaty claims & interventions based on race privilege. They draw iwi into complicity in trashing the classical property rights promised by article 2 of the treaty to all the ordinary people of New Zealand, in favour of exercise of chiefly powers by iwi authorities, and they negate the equal citizenship promised by article 3.”

And then there’s climate change

If you run down the recent entries on the Centre for Political Research website, you may land on another of Dr Newman’s favourite topics, climate change, where she wrote on 5 March: “Leading the charge is the United Nations, which raised the alarm in the early nineties by establishing the Framework convention on climate change that defined climate change as being caused by human interference with atmospheric composition.”

It’s worth correcting Dr Newman on this one, because her use of half a sentence is not just misleading, but plain wrong because it implies the UN saw no change not attributable to humans.

Here’s the full UN definition, with my emphasis on the half that she dropped: “’Climate change’ means a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.”

Links:
Muriel Newman, 26 March 2017: National’s RMA changes – a major constitutional victory for iwi leaders
Muriel Newman, 12 March 2017: An abomination of a bill
Stephen Franks, 12 March 2017: Deceptive advice to National caucus
UN framework convention on climate change, 1992

Earlier stories:
15 March 2017: Bill opponents talk “shambles”, not ideology
15 March 2017: RMA reform bill scrapes through second reading
6 March 2017: RMA amendment back for second reading
10 November 2016: National gets Maori agreement to advance RMA reforms
14 March 2016: Council says Government approach wrong on resource management reform
27 November 2015: RMA reform introduced

Attribution: Centre for Political Research.

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Bill opponents talk “shambles”, not ideology

Opposition to the latest Resource Management Act reforms is less about ideology, more about competence, practicality & effects on process.

The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill scraped through its second reading in Parliament yesterday by a 2-vote majority, 61-59, courtesy of Maori Party support.

Building, Construction & Environment Minister Nick Smith has promoted the bill’s value, particularly in addressing Auckland’s housing shortage.

The rest of Parliament’s parties, however, reject that basis for the bill and criticise the bill’s structure.

Act MP David Seymour commented: “And you thought RMA reform couldn’t get any worse. The latest Resource Management Act reform won’t be any more effective than the previous 18 reforms to the act.

“Nick Smith is dreaming if he thinks the worst of RMA negotiations are behind him. The consensus from across the political spectrum and from submitters is that the proposed reform is a shambles, adding complexity instead of cutting bureaucracy.

“Our housing shortage is bad enough as it is. Adding more iwi consultation, cost & complexity to the development process would be disastrous for prospective homeowners. Therefore Act cannot support this bill.”

Mr Seymour said that, post-election, “a stronger Act Party will make National commit to fundamental RMA reform that simplifies processes, values property rights and gets houses built.”

Labour says housing crisis assertion wrong

The Labour Party said, in its select committee minority view: “The assertion that the bill is needed because the RMA is the cause of the Auckland housing crisis is wrong, and is no justification for this flawed bill. The following table shows that more new houses were consented in Auckland & New Zealand in 2004 than in 2016. The RMA was in force throughout.”

Labour continued: “The very broad range of submitters opposed to the bill included Local Government NZ and a great many regional & district councils, major land developers including Fulton Hogan, major corporates including Fonterra, infrastructure owners including airport & quarry owners, all environmental non-governmental organisations, the NZ Law Society and numerous others.

“Even amongst the minority of submitters who supported parts of the bill, many used guarded words like ‘we support the intent of the bill’ before criticising much of its detail.

“The bill, if passed, would add complexity to the Resource Management Act 1991 and make it less effective and more expensive to use, rather than better. Legitimate complaints by submitters include:

  • The draconian ministerial regulatory powers to override plans and control consents, and to limit rights of participation. These are tantamount to a return to the National Development Act 1979, and are on the spectrum of the patently excessive regulation-making powers abused under the former Economic Stabilisation Act 1987
  • The power to standardise plan formats & definitions inappropriately extends to the content & substantive provisions of plans
  • The rule-making powers of the minister are also far too broad
  • These 3 forms of ministerial powers are so poorly constrained and patently excessive as to be constitutionally outrageous
  • The bill also overrides – and allows the minister to further override – local & district council functions in such a broad & fundamental way that it overturns the traditional division of power & roles between central & local government
  • The limits to public notification & participation, including on the subdivision of land, are wrong. Those concerned include land developers, and the owners of existing infrastructure concerned about reverse sensitivity effects on their operations. Many submitters said that earlier changes to notification have worked in recent years, and that further change is unnecessary
  • The department said the regulatory powers that can limit rights of participation are intended to apply in urban areas, but the sections as drafted also apply to regional councils and could be used to stop people advocating against pollution of rivers
  • Water conservation orders are undermined
  • New provisions introducing unreasonably short time limits for some council processes will have the unintended consequence of councils making more activities discretionary rather than controlled. Overall this will complicate & delay consent applications rather than speed them up
  • The codification of collaborative processes is unnecessary, wrong in its detail and adds further complexity to the RMA
  • Plan-making processes are curtailed, with insufficient safeguards to ensure that single-step processes are fair & robust when appeal rights are abrogated
  • Appeal rights are curtailed, to the detriment of adversely affected private parties, councils, communities & the environment
  • The important experience & wisdom of the Environment Court is lost from many decisions
  • Many changes introduce more complexity to the RMA, through convoluted decision-making criteria & extra process alternatives. The multiple flow diagrams helpfully produced by the department to assist us illustrated how this bill makes the RMA processes more complex
  • There are a myriad other changes to the RMA & other acts being amended by the bill, many of which are wrong.

The Labour Party concluded: “Some of the changes proposed to national guidance through policy statements & environment standards are appropriate, but others are unnecessarily complex and will give rise to less consistency, not more.”

Greens’ analysis an indictment of ministerial & National performance

The Green Party – regarded by many in mainstream business as a fringe outfit to be disparaged – presented an analysis in its minority view which was an indictment of ministerial & National Party performance.

The Greens said: “The Resource Management Act is a crucial foundation of New Zealand’s environmental law & planning system. Changes to it should be based on sound analysis & evidence and have broad cross-party support so they are enduring. The bill has neither. Many of the changes appear driven by ideology & anecdote, rather than robust analysis & evidence.

“The bill attracted 647 unique submissions & 94 form-style submissions, many of them critical of its fundamental aspects. Many included detailed technical analysis of the bill’s clauses & their implications, and represented a significant investment of time & expertise by submitters.

“Resource users such as Fonterra, quarry operators, and infrastructure operators such as airports made similar points in opposition as environmental interests such as Fish & Game NZ, the Environmental Defence Society, and Forest & Bird.

“Federated Farmers, for example, described the proposed ministerial regulation-making powers as ‘excessive’ and the provisions which allow central government to intervene directly in local council plans as ‘heavy-handed’.

“Sir Geoffrey Palmer, presenting evidence for Fish & Game, described the regulation-making powers which would override the provisions of regional & district plans as a ‘constitutional outrage’. ‘Due process is replaced by executive fiat.’”

The Green Party said the bill’s changes put executive power & individual property rights ahead of community & environmental wellbeing: “They insert new processes for national direction, plan-making, consideration of land-use & other activities and public notification ,while previous changes in 2013 are still bedding in. The changes emphasise fast decision-making ahead of good outcomes. “The bill is likely to make the RMA & its implementation more complex & litigious, and increase costs for councils & users of the act.

“Limits on rights to appeal council decisions to the Environment Court restrict access to justice and the court’s ability to be a guardian of the RMA’s purpose of sustainable management and a check on poor decision-making.”

The Greens’ submission continued with extensive detail on the committee process, ministerial powers, national direction & plan-making before traversing more ideological issues such as public participation, the permissive approach to subdivision & residential activities, fast-track consenting, and the other acts of Parliament affected by the proposed amendment.

The party’s minority view concluded: “The bill is not fit for purpose. It significantly increases ministerial powers while removing or restricting basic rights of public participation. It will expedite development activities with few environmental safeguards and scant consideration of sustainable management. The bill puts private rights & development ahead of the public interest and environmental & community wellbeing. It should not proceed.”

Links:
Select committee’s commentary and the revised bill
Nick Smith booklet, 26 November 2015: The second phase of Resource Management Act reform

Related story today:
RMA reform bill scrapes through second reading

Earlier stories:
6 March 2017: RMA amendment back for second reading
10 November 2016: National gets Maori agreement to advance RMA reforms
14 March 2016: Council says Government approach wrong on resource management reform
27 November 2015: RMA reform introduced

Attribution: Ministerial & opposition releases, select committee report.

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RMA reform bill scrapes through second reading

The latest Resource Management Act reform bill – title, the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill – scraped through its second reading in Parliament yesterday by a 2-vote majority, 61-59.

Labour, the Greens, NZ First, David Seymour (Act) & Peter Dunne (United Future) all opposed it this time. At the first reading, Labour supported the bill’s introduction and NZ First abstained.

Building, Construction & Environment Minister Nick Smith introduced the reform to Parliament on 26 November 2015 and it had its first reading 7 days later. The local government & environment select committee reported it back to Parliament on 6 March.

Dr Smith said the intent was “to improve environmental management, help increase housing supply & affordability and support jobs & growth”.

He told Parliament: “The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill is the largest package of reforms to the Resource Management Act since it was first passed 25 years ago. It contains 40 proposals that make significant changes to 5 different acts.

“This reform is critical to addressing housing supply & affordability by making it easier, faster & less costly to create new sections. Section prices in Auckland have gone from $100,000 in 1990 to $530,000 today and are the core reason housing has become excessively expensive.

“It addresses this core issue by opening up land supply, reducing the time taken to get consents, reducing the cost of land subdivision and enabling the construction of infrastructure. Parties that are opposing this bill are blocking the very changes that will make housing more affordable.”

On the Maori Party’s agreement to support the bill, Dr Smith said: “The Maori Party has supported the bill to this stage, and we are continuing to work with them to ensure detailed changes as a result of the select committee process are consistent with their agreement with the Government. I will be meeting with the Maori Party co-leaders on ensuring we have got the detail right.”

“This second phase of the Government’s RMA reforms builds on the first, and will support the additional jobs, infrastructure & housing needed for a strongly growing & successful economy.”

Links:
Select committee’s commentary and the revised bill
Nick Smith booklet, 26 November 2015: The second phase of Resource Management Act reform

Related story today:
Bill opponents talk “shambles”, not ideology

Earlier stories:
6 March 2017: RMA amendment back for second reading
10 November 2016: National gets Maori agreement to advance RMA reforms
14 March 2016: Council says Government approach wrong on resource management reform
27 November 2015: RMA reform introduced

Attribution: Ministerial & opposition releases, select committee report.

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RMA amendment back for second reading

Parliament’s local government & environment committee reported back on the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill today, and Environment Minister Nick Smith said it would go to a second reading this week.

Green Party environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage described the bill as “a charter for property developers with its permissive approach to subdivision. It encourages urban sprawl, ad hoc subdivision & development with little consideration of the impacts on neighbours, streams, beaches, transport & infrastructure provision.”

But Dr Smith said the amendment would “improve New Zealand’s environmental management, helps increase the supply & affordability of housing and supports jobs & growth. It contains 40 proposals that make significant changes to 5 different acts and is the most comprehensive package of reform to the Resource Management Act since its inception 25 years ago.”

It’s in the second phase of the Government’s resource management reforms, and has 12 significant provisions:

  • National planning standards to reduce complexity & 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 councils to free up land for housing
  • New provisions to enable stock exclusion from waterways
  • New provisions requiring decommissioning plans for offshore platforms
  • More generous compensation for land required for public works
  • Better alignment with other acts like Reserves, Conservation & the exclusive economic zone beyond New Zealand’s shores
  • Collaborative planning process to encourage community-led solutions, and
  • Improved Maori participation arrangements.

Dr Smith said the Maori Party had reached agreement with the Government to support the bill through all remaining stages in Parliament following detailed consideration of the initial policy and the inclusion of proposed changes to strengthen the original iwi participation agreement.

”The mana whakahono a rohe/iwi participation agreement provides a better framework for councils to meet their existing obligations to consult with local iwi. Many councils already have these agreements through Treaty settlements or good practice. The Government supports these provisions because we want iwi involved in how natural resources are managed and because formalising the process will help achieve better outcomes with less delays & costs.

“This is a huge bill and the Maori Party was not a member of the select committee. They need time to digest all of the select committee’s detailed changes to ensure they are consistent with their agreement with the Government. I will be meeting with the Maori Party co-leaders on ensuring we have got the detail right.”

Links:
Report on the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill (101-2) [PDF 1469k]
Resource Legislation Amendment Bill

Attribution: Ministerial & Green releases.

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New telecom facility standards introduced

Communications Minister Amy Adams & Environment Minister Nick Smith announced the new national environmental standard for telecommunications facilities under the Resource Management Act on Friday.

One part of it takes control of consenting for frequently deployed infrastructure such as small cell units, street cabinets, light pole antennas & cabling out of the domain of local councils from 1 January 2017 if it meets the national standard.

Dr Smith said: “This national standard will save consumers & ratepayers millions of dollars and is part of our broader package of RMA reforms that take a more nationally consistent approach to environmental regulation.”

He said the new standard would make it easier & cheaper to install the infrastructure consumers need to access broadband under the Government’s ultra-fast broadband programme, rural broadband Initiative & 4G network deployment: “It does not change the radio frequency exposure standards. All new telecommunications infrastructure will continue to need to comply with current standards referenced in the national environmental standard, and which are based on international best practice.”

Links:
Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Telecommunication Facilities) Regulations 2016
Examples of telecommunications facilities no longer requiring a resource consent under new NES.pdf (pdf 280.84 KB)

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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National gets Maori agreement to advance RMA reforms

The National majority in the Government and its Maori Party partners have reached agreement on policy issues in the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill. Environment Minister Nick Smith said yesterday this would enable the bill to pass its second & third readings.

Dr Smith said: “This legislation is critical to the Government’s programme of improving New Zealand’s environmental management, increasing the supply & affordability of housing and supporting economic growth. This is the most comprehensive package of reform to the Resource Management Act since its inception 25 years ago, and it is welcome news that we have the parliamentary support to put these 40 changes into law.”

He listed the 12 major provisions in the bill, which is part of the second phase of the Government’s resource management reforms:

  • National planning standards to reduce complexity & 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
  • New provisions to enable stock exclusion from waterways
  • New provisions requiring decommissioning plans for offshore platforms
  • More generous compensation for land required for public works
  • Better alignment with other acts like Reserves, Conservation & Exclusive Economic Zone
  • Collaborative planning process to encourage community-led solutions, and
  • Improved Maori participation arrangements.

“The Maori Party has strongly advocated for improved iwi participation. This has been achieved through including the mana whakahono a rohe/iwi participation arrangement in the bill. This enables iwi & councils to enter into agreements on how iwi can be involved in resource management processes, so as to ensure their perspective is heard & understood. Many councils already have these agreements through Treaty settlements or good practice. The Government supports these provisions because we want iwi involved in how natural resources are managed and because formalising the process will help achieve better outcomes with less delays & costs.”

The Government first proposed the reforms in the bill in 2013, but couldn’t advance them when it couldn’t secure enough parliamentary support. National introduced a revised bill without the controversial changes to the purpose of the act last December, with the support of the Maori Party for the first reading but subject to further discussion on significant issues such as the iwi participation arrangements.

Submissions were heard on the bill from April to June, and the select committee received 2 departmental reports – one in August and the latest last week. Opposition parties refused an extension last week of the select committee report-back date beyond 7 November, so it was reported pro forma. The Government will refer the bill back to the select committee again today.

Dr Smith said: “The select committee has a major task ahead to work through the 500-page departmental report and refine the drafting of the bill. The Government wants to advance the legislation as quickly as possible, but this is an area of law where getting the detail right is particularly important. It may be completed this year, but may flow into early next year. We will also need to consult with the Maori Party on the detailed drafting when the bill is reported back to Parliament to ensure it is consistent with the agreed policy.”

Link:
Resource Legislation Amendment Bill Q&As.pdf (pdf 298.25 KB)

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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Topographic map changes proposed

Land Information NZ (LINZ) put its proposed changes to the price of its paper topographic maps and the way they’re printed out for public consultation yesterday. Submissions close on Monday 28 November.

The Government organisation said: “Paper maps are still an important product for us, but with more people using digital maps we don’t sell as many as we used to. This means the price we charge no longer reflects the costs of producing them, especially as wholesale prices were last changed in 2009.”

Potential price increases range from $3.30-6.80.

Land Information NZ is also proposing to make greater use of other printing methods, printing fewer maps at a time so they’re more up to date. It produces topographic maps of New Zealand, offshore islands and Pacific & Antarctic regions.

Link: Map change consultation

Attribution: LINZ, ministerial release.

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Minister says monitoring report highlights need for further RMA reform

Environment Minister Nick Smith said yesterday release of the Resource Management Act national monitoring system data highlighted the need for reform of the act. The image above is a slice of the monitoring report infographic.

“This monitoring report highlights how slow our planning system is, with the average time for a council plan taking more than 8 years and for a council plan change 4 years. This cumbersome process means councils cannot respond to changing society needs such as the sharp shift in housing demand from the lull of 2010 to the boom of 2015.

“It is crucial to resolving issues like housing that we have a far more responsive planning system. The Government’s second phase of Resource Management Act reform, currently before Parliament, provides the option for councils to adopt a streamlined planning process which will enable councils to achieve plan changes in 6 months.”

Dr Smith said the 2015 national monitoring system data & a new online tool opened up access to Resource Management Act statistics for the first time: “The data will help the Ministry for the Environment see which parts of the act processes are causing delays, where inconsistency in council practices is a problem, and identify best practice. For the first time, the ministry has detailed information on more than 42,000 resource consent applications & 359 plan-making processes.

“This new, open reporting on the Resource Management Act, alongside the Government’s legislative reforms, also helps improve performance. Councils & communities need to compare their performance around environmental compliance & costs of processing this for plans & consents and help drive better practice.”

Dr Smith said changes in the Government’s first phase of Resource Management Act reforms had improved processing: “We’ve seen the number of late consents drop from 16,017 in 2007-08 to 1260 in 2014-15. We still have some issues with the efficiency of consent processing, with 19% requiring time extensions and 32% further information requests. More than 360 consents received a discount on their consent costs of [a total] $457,321 where councils did not meet statutory timeframes for processing.

“I am also encouraged by the increased levels of compliance with resource consent conditions, with 88% of those monitored being compliant. We still have more work to do in ensuring the act delivers good outcomes for the environment while minimising the restrictions & costs on businesses & homeowners.

“There is also work to do to reduce processing costs of $76 million for the 40,000-plus annual resource consents. There are significant savings to be made from reducing the number of notified consents, which cost 5 times those of non-notified. Even the average $1929 bill for a non-notified consent can be excessive when it involves a minor change in boundary or height rules. The proposal to enable councils to waive the requirement for some consents over many minor issues would be a relief to homeowners, where the consent cost can exceed the building cost. There are also significant benefits for the environment and costs of the Resource Management Act with greater use of national standards.”

Links:
NMS Infographic.pdf (pdf 198.29 KB)
Environment Ministry, RMA reporting

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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