RMLA President’s Report – February 2015

Happy New Year everyone!

Somewhat of a ‘baptism of fire’ for me, launching back into the Unitary Plan hearings process (and back to the Board of Inquiry on the Tukituki Plan Change!) as well as needing to front various media channels with a view on the Minister’s intentions for the 2015 Reform Bill (announced in his Rotary Club address on 21 January).

Having barely thrown off my jandals (and replaced them with leather and laces), I found myself glaring at the cameras and lights in the TV3 News studio at 6.45 am explaining what I thought the Minister was likely to outline that evening!

It is always interesting to observe the Real Politik around any issue that you are involved with which plays out in the media.  One could be forgiven for thinking that the sole impetus for RMA reform was to address Auckland’s housing crisis.  Yet we know as practitioners that the real issues go much deeper (and broader) than that. 

We all look forward to finding out exactly what is proposed for Part 2, alongside the four additional matters the Minister outlined that would be expressly included (natural hazards, infrastructure, urban environment, housing affordability).  Will there also be any reorganisation of s6 and s7, or encoding of the ‘overall judgement’ approach, and will the existing range of section 7 matters survive? The Rotary club address leaves one somewhat guessing about whether these (more controversial) elements of the reforms outlined by Minister Adams in 2013 remain on the table, with Minister Smith stating that the proposals “drafted” two years ago were being reviewed in light of “recent case law”.

As foreshadowed in my December report, the RMLA has prepared a paper proposing an alternative to the Schedule 1 procedures, but only for specific and discrete issues where a need for “plan agility” is most compelling.  We thank those that responded to the invitation in my last report to share views about the how well the existing alternative plan procedures (Auckland, Christchurch) are working, all of which informed the paper.  I encourage you to read the paper (visit the RMLA website https://www.rmla.org.nz/librarydoc/index/category/2), and to reflect on the recommendation that the Schedule 1 procedure including merit based Environment Court appeals be retained for general full plan and policy statement reviews, outside of the fresh water management realm. 

Whatever our individual views might be about any aspect of the reforms, we need to engage as an Association, and take up opportunities to be at the forefront of the reform process.  We all know that by the time a Bill is introduced (as signalled for later in the first half of this year), the die would have been cast, certainly at the higher policy level, but likely also in terms of detailed drafting.  We nevertheless have a team on standby to review and prepare detailed constructive submissions to the Bill through the Select Committee process.

We also intend to liaise with the New Zealand Law Society (Environmental Law Committee) in our approach to engaging on the reform issues, to ensure maximum impact in advancing mutual objectives.


On a different but related note, I look forward to bringing you more details of the 2015 road show programme for this year which our subcommittee (Rachel Devine, Ian Fraser and Kate Barry-Piceno) are currently working on. 

I touched on some possible ideas for 2015 in my December report.  With the Minister stressing the need to foster collaborative ways to resolve resource management issues, as well as reduce the degree of “clutter” in the planning landscape, these topics could well benefit from a ‘national conversation’ led by RMLA.

Our first meeting as National Committee was on 27 January.  We reviewed our portfolio roles and updated our strategic plan in light of the emphasis this year on RMA reforms, which will of course be a key work stream for National Committee.

Overall an exciting year ahead of us. 

I hope to catch up with as many of you as possible over the year, as we track towards the conference in Tauranga in September – which is again, and already, shaping up as the “must attend” event for members.

Martin Williams
RMLA President