The Environmental Defence Society released a report today outlining the key points of phase 3 of its resource management system reform project.
The society’s chief executive, Gary Taylor, said the report looked at system reform through an urban lens – “how it would play out in the context of towns & cities. It calls for the creation of new legislation to replace the Resource Management Act.”
In the 2 previous phases, the society analysed the wider resource management system, outlined different options for change and presented an overall preferred model for reform.
These reports have informed the Government’s independent system reform panel, chaired by former Chief High Court & Appeal Court judge Tony Randerson QC, whose final recommendations are yet to be released.
Outlining today’s report, senior Environmental Defence Society researcher Dr Greg Severinsen said: “The urban context of reform is crucial. Alongside problems of housing affordability, infrastructure failings & other pressures of high growth, our cities are not working well for the environment or the climate. Our frameworks are not working well together, and there is now a great deal of complexity to the system. Something’s got to give.
“The Resource Management Act needs an overhaul. In previous work we’ve explored a number of fundamental changes that are needed, but concluded that the basic framework could remain. On reflection, though, it’s become increasingly obvious that the extent of the change required really means this should be seen as something new, not just a deep round of amendments.
“We’ve got to rebuild our resource management system from the ground up.
“We’re calling this the Environmental Stewardship & Planning Act. The act would have a different philosophical foundation to the Resource Management Act, which would flow through in the approach to its purpose & principles, national direction and council planning & consenting processes.
“Our future system has got to be more agile, more integrated and, above all, it has to be more positively focused on achieving the cities we want rather than just stopping the things we don’t want. Environmental bottom lines are key to that. But at the same time, we don’t think it’s a good idea to split our legislation into separate statutes for planning & the environment. Integrated management is important.
“A replacement to the Resource Management Act would be supported by significant institutional change, too, including (among other things) local government structural reform, different settings for water service providers, a more active & integrated approach for central government, and the creation of a new, independent Futures Commission. And we can’t forget the importance of money. We’ve got to expand the toolbox for funding the infrastructure & services that support urban wellbeing and address the financial incentives & constraints that have held our cities back.
“Most of all, we think we need a proper legal framework for spatial planning that can tie all decisionmaking together, and which would present a green vision for how our cities grow & change over time.”
Mr Taylor added: “This contribution, which has focused on the needs of towns & cities, completes 3 years of really deep & broad analysis about the failings of the present resource management system and what system reform is required for the next generation. We’d like to give special thanks again to the NZ Law Foundation & the Michael & Suzanne Borrin Foundation for their support of the project. The 3 major reports from the society will hopefully contribute to the national conversation about the best way forward.”
The Randerson panel’s report on system reform is expected to be released in the next few days. Mr Taylor added: “We appear to have multi-party agreement on at least the need for fundamental reform. The next step will require some serious thinking, exploring the best way forward with intelligent & open minds and coming up with a depoliticised design for Parliament to consider.
“Let’s take this opportunity to make deep & lasting positive change that protects our environment and enables sustainable economic activity.”
Mr Taylor said the society’s final report would be a much larger piece of work, and would be available on its website in early August.
Link: RM reform project
Attribution: Society release.