Archive | Legislation

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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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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Council says Government approach wrong on resource management reform

Auckland Council has told the Government it’s taking the wrong approach to improving resource management law by extending central government decision-making into local processes.

The council submission, endorsed by its Auckland development committee on Thursday, opposes numerous points where the Government is proposing not just to have an overview but to have a say in decisions, right down to zoning.

The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill passed its first reading in Parliament in December and submissions on it close today. Most of the amendment proposed in the bill would be to the Resource Management Act, and that’s what the council submission has focused on. Other affected laws are the Reserves Act, Public Works Act, Conservation Act and Exclusive Economic Zone & Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act.

Key points the Auckland Council submission makes:

  • The Government has a number of related initiatives underway; this one should be deferred pending a full review of the planning system, starting after work on the wider reform programme has been completed, so end of 2017-beginning of 2018
  • The council would support a wider review of the planning system that looks at how best to achieve integrated outcomes – including funding – as opposed to ongoing ad
  • hoc amendments
  • Many proposed amendments would impose additional costs on local bodies, and there’s no accompanying analysis
  • Effective iwi engagement is more the result of strong relationships supported by good practice than legislative requirements
  • The Government’s approach to Maori involvement in hearings is over-complicated & less appropriate than the current council system; instead, the Government should invest in building capacity in tikanga Maori.

The council says in its submission a number of amendments expand ministerial powers to the extent of determining plan content or giving the minister other decision-making powers: “These will diminish local decision-making.”

On timing & order of reform, the council says: “There are a number of inter-related planning & urban management initiatives amongst the Government’s wider reform programme. Foremost, the Government has instructed the Productivity Commission to inquire into the system of urban planning, which could result in a fundamental review of the Resource Management Act. In addition, work is proceeding to develop a national policy statement on urban development, which will include content addressing ‘development capacity’.

“Auckland Council is concerned that amendments to the Resource Management Act at this time amount to tinkering in the face of significant issues being considered in the Government’s wider reform programme. The proposed amendments may enact new Resource Management Act provisions before the issues are fully understood & resolved in a co-ordinated manner, with implications for the coherency of the planning framework & the wider reform programme.”

The council says it would support guidance being provided under the Resource Management Act through instruments such as national policy statements & national environmental standards: “At issue, however, is the extent to which the proposed amendments extend beyond the provision of guidance and enable methods, rules & plan content, such as the zoning of particular land, to be determined by the minister.

“The council supports a ministerial oversight role that focuses ministerial attention on the operation of the overall planning system & the provision of guidance. Auckland Council opposes provisions that erode local decision-making and provide for ministerial decision-making power on plans.”

Understandably, the council supports making processes more efficient, but it says the Government has got that wrong too: “The council supports the aim of making processes under the Resource Management Act more efficient. This can be achieved by making processes more proportionate or by supporting established, good practice. Auckland Council contends, however, that the proposed amendments will increase processing & cost. The council proposes that the district plan could clarify the kinds of circumstances that would require notification of resource consents as an alternative to the bill’s proposed amendments.

“An amendment in the bill would require that submissions to resource consents & plan changes are struck out if they do not pass prescribed tests. The council proposes that this amendment is opposed.”

On the role of iwi, the council says it wants to maintain the relationship-based approach it has established with the Independent Maori Statutory Board and Auckland’s 19 iwi. It supports the appointment of hearings commissioners with expertise in tikanga Maori, but suggests its own approach of appointing, with Independent Maori Statutory Board involvement, a pool of independent planning commissioners (including those with tikanga Maori expertise) “is more appropriate than consulting with iwi on planning commissioners every time a hearing is held. Auckland Council would like to see the Government’s intention matched with investment to build capacity in tikanga Maori.”

Links: Productivity Commission, urban planning inquiry
Council committee agenda

Earlier stories:

9 March 2016: Kaipatiki board tells Government to get on with fundamental tasks
11 December 2015: Planning system is next Productivity Commission target
5 October 2015: Commission sends land for housing report to Government
10 August 2015: Council has forthright message for Government on land for housing
19 June 2015: Key points from land for housing report
19 June 2015: Commission looks behind high land prices

Attribution: Submission & presentation.

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RMA reform introduced

The Government introduced its substantive bill overhauling the Resource Management Act to Parliament yesterday. Environment Minister Nick Smith said its intent was “to support business growth & housing development while also ensuring more effective environmental management.

“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 & better alignment with other laws.”

However the hard stuff – changes to sections 6 & 7 of the act – have been left out.

The 180-page Resource Legislation Amendment Bill comprises 40 changes contained in 235 clauses & 8 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 & Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012.

Dr Smith said: “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 NZ, the Rules Reduction Taskforce & 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 takes 6 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.

“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 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 & lakes, with instant fines for breaches. It strengthens the requirements for managing natural hazards like earthquakes & sea level rise from climate change. It requires decommissioning plans for offshore oil & 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 & 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 & consents to be accessed on the web. The bill recognises email communications & online filing. It also encourages early dispute resolution on cases appealed to the Environment Court.”

Dr Smith said the Maori Party supported introduction of the bill after intensive discussions over several months: “Some reform proposals, including changes to sections 6 & 7, are not in the bill. The proposals consulted on publicly in 2013 on improved Maori participation in resource management have been included in response to the Maori Party’s strong advocacy. Discussions between the National & Maori Parties will continue in response to public submissions & 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 & delays for homeowners & businesses, as well as improve New Zealand’s planning & environmental controls.”

Links: Q&A
Information booklet
Resource Legislation Amendment Bill

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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Templates in next round of RMA reform

The Budget allocates $41.2 million to 3 environmental projects:

  • $20.4 million more over 4 years to provide greater national direction & support to councils in implementing the resource management reforms
  • $4 million more towards supporting the Environmental Protection Authority’s role to implement the exclusive economic zone legislation in 2015-16
  • $16.8 million to support the Government’s programme of improving the management of freshwater.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said: “A key priority in 2015-16 is progressing the Government’s second phase of Resource Management Act reforms. These reforms involve stronger national direction and greater use of national policy standards & national environment standards.

“The funding will also support the development of planning templates to enable a more standardised & simplified approach to resource management.”

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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Propbd on Q Th22Jan15 – 2 units sell, RMA reform, Motu research

1.30pm:
Both units sell at Ray White auction

Ray White City Apartments sold both units today at its first auction for the year. Auction results:

Emily Apartments, 22 Emily Place, unit 4E, sold for $565,000, sales agent Gillian Gibson

Parnell, Aero, 27 Cheshire St, unit 6, sold for $365,000, Donald Gibbs.

Earlier stories today:

I’ve posted 2 stories on Building, Housing & Environment Minister Nick Smith’s announcement yesterday of what he’s proposing in the next round of Resource Management Act reform – a short version of his 10 main points, and a long version from his speech in Nelson last night. More on that topic to come today, along with details from the Motu Research working paper on construction costs, also released yesterday.

Links: Smith lists 10 RMA changes, 3 ways to defeat cheap housing, 2 new laws (short version)
Smith outlines RMA reform aims
Nick Smith speech in full
Full Motu Research paper

Attribution: Company release.

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