By Pattrick Smellie
The Government remains committed to long-stalled reform of the Resource Management Act in 2016, in a form that garners enough support in the parliament, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce has confirmed, with the launch of the refreshed chapter of his Business Growth Agenda covering natural resources.
"Our resource management reform process will focus on achieving a parliamentary majority to meaningfully improve RMA processes, provide investor certainty and speed up the release of greenfield and brownfield land in urban areas," the chapter, published today, says.
The wording effectively confirms that the Government has abandoned its efforts to change the balance of the Act to give greater weight to economic development against the environmental imperatives in the Act.
Environment Minister Nick Smith had previously indicated an RMA reform bill would have come to Parliament before now.
"The reform package will achieve certainty for businesses and communities, improve efficiency, and enhance the capability and capacity of local decision-makers," the chapter says.
While the refreshed chapter discusses development of New Zealand's marine resources and says the government still sees "further potential" for oil and gas resources, it is notable for making no mention of sea-bed mining in the Exclusive Economic Zone.
Two applications for marine consents under new EEZ legislation intended to regulate development of resources in New Zealand's vast seabed resource have both failed, leading critics to propose amendments to the process both to accelerate decisions and to make approvals more likely.
However, the updated chapter is silent on the issue.
On oil and gas, it acknowledges reduced industry interest in exploration in New Zealand following the recent slump in global oil prices, but the BGA says this is "not expected to have any marked long-term impact."