Resource Management Amendment Bill 2012 Update

17 Dec 12

First Reading, Parliamentary Debates and Submissions called for.

We are continuing to monitor progress of the Bill. It has passed its first reading and submissions have been called for. Submissions to the Select Committee are due on 28 February.

Our initial description of the Bill is located here.

The Bill passed its first reading in Parliament on 11 December 2012 with 71 votes for and 49 against. The Bill was supported by National, NZ First, the Māori Party, ACT and United Future. Speeches in the first reading debate highlighted some of the areas of contention including central Government interference in the Auckland Unitary Plan, tree protection, the increased importance of economic growth for plan development, and making Resource Management Act processes faster.

The Bill is extensive and aims to further streamline the consenting regime, provide for the delivery of the first combined plan for Auckland, provide further powers to make regulations, and make technical and operational changes.“In terms of the economics of delays, a 2007 estimate put the cost per day of a hypothetical $10 million project being delayed at $2,200, which for a 3-month delay could mean an additional $140,000 of unnecessary cost. This is not about changing the basis on which the final decision is reached, but about getting to the decision more quickly, to give certainty and to lessen the cost and time impact on everyone involved,” the Hon. Amy Adams, Minister for the Environment, said.

Grant Robertson, Labour deputy leader, described the Bill as a “continuation of th[e] Government’s centralisation of power” and that it would “tak[e] away decision-making rights from local communities”.

On the new amendments to section 32 Mr Robertson went on to say, “under section 32, as it currently is in the Act, an evaluation of a council’s plan has to be undertaken. Well, the Government has now decided that that evaluation should focus on economic growth. That is what the Government has decided. That unbalances the inherent balance within the Act for sustainable development. It takes it away from sustainable development and says “We will prioritise economic development within sustainable development”.

Jacqui Deans, National MP, also weighed in on the section 32 issue. “There has been identified a lack of direction in the consideration provisions of section 32. I am particularly mindful of the Otago Regional Council’s water plan, which is going to have a large impact on water users throughout the Otago Regional Council’s area, and the deficiencies that were identified in the section 32 report associated with that plan, which had no numbers associated with them.”

The proposed panel to make decisions on Auckland Unitary Plan was described by Phil Twyford, Labour MP, as containing “true friends of the National Party”. Mr Twyford also expressed his displeasure with the introduction of new tree provisions. “It is overriding rulings that the Environment Court has made and is trying to make it much harder, more expensive, and more bureaucratic for local communities to use the provisions of the Resource Management Act to protect trees”.

Labour was also very critical that there was no consultation with the Courts to ensure there is adequate capacity to deal with an increase in direct referrals. As stated by Mr Robertson, “Inadequate Court capacity is a risk that would potentially mean that the proposal would not achieve its objective”.

On the benefits that could come from a reduced consenting timeframe and the introduction of the Unitary Plan, Hon. Dr Nick Smith said “[w]e… are about making the Resource Management Act work more efficiently, so that we can build the infrastructure, so that we can have affordable homes, and so that we can build the industries and grow exports and jobs”.

A full transcript of the debate, highlighting the key issues associated with the Bill, can be found on the New Zealand Parliament website.

The Bill has been referred to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee, which has six months to report back. The closing date for public submissions is 28 February.

Further substantial reform of the Resource Management Act will continue during 2013, with consultation proposed in the first half of next year. According to Hon. Amy Adams, the 2013 reform will be a “cohesive package of reforms for our freshwater and resource management systems”. She said it will be “focused on delivering a system that answers communities’ planning needs, enables growth and job creation, and provides strong environmental outcomes in a timely and cost-effective manner.”

If you have any questions please contact the Resource Management Team.