RMLA Exec comments on RMA Reform Proposals

The RMLA Executive sees a lot of positives in the reform proposals announced by the Government at its National Party Conference over the weekend. 

The outline in the “Summary of Reform Proposals 2013 (August 2013)” demonstrates that the Government has engaged with the feedback received on its February discussion document. 

The proposed changes to Part 2 have been tempered in relation to public access to the coastline, areas of significant indigenous vegetation and habitat, along with aquatic habitats, and a new provision relating to the functioning of ecosystems is proposed.    Specific suggestions made by the RMLA on other aspects of the proposed wording of the new section 6 in its submissions have been adopted, including relating to the efficient use and development of natural and physical resources, the effects of climate change, and the benefits of renewable energy.  These modifications to the reforms will reduce the “transitional” costs the RMLA was concerned about with changes to Part 2 amidst second generation planning processes underway throughout the country, and provide greater clarity.

The many positive reforms signalled in February have been retained around integrating and simplifying plan content (national templates) with additional clarity given as to how and when national template requirements must be implemented.

There is also greater clarity as to application of the alternative plan development paths involving collaborative frameworks (singled out for fresh water management and ‘Joint Council’ planning processes).  The Environment Court is to be given the power to require parties to undertake and agree to the outcomes of mediation or other alternative dispute resolution.

Proposals for  a  ‘10 day ‘consent process for simple applications along with Council exemption powers (from the need to obtain resource consent) have been retained. We have a clearer sense of how the reforms will focus notification of resource consent applications and submissions to the reasons the consent is required, and the effects actually triggering notification.

Finally, we are pleased to see that the earlier proposal to change consent appeals from de novo to by way of re-hearing has been abandoned. Again (for consent appeals) the Court is to be given additional powers to require parties to participate in mediation, or to consider using a judicial conference to help parties negotiate a settlement.

No doubt important issues of detail will remain which require careful consideration.

No dates are given for when the Bill that will incorporate these changes will be introduced or when submissions on it will be due. The RMLA will be making submissions on that Bill and inviting perspectives and comments from its members to help inform that process.  Stand by for further information on that as soon as it comes to hand.

The proposed reform package will also be a substantial focus of this year’s conference in September – refer to the registration details that are now available on the RMLA’s website.

RMLA Executive