RMA overhaul to save time and money

  • 27/11/2015

By Sarah Robson

The Government's overhaul of the Resource Management Act should save councils and communities time and money, Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) says.

Environment Minister Nick Smith has finally secured the numbers - thanks to the support of the Maori Party - to get the long-promised reforms of the RMA off the ground.

The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill will have its first reading in parliament next Thursday before it's referred to the local Government and environment select committee.

But the Government has been forced to compromise to get the Maori Party's support and contentious changes to sections six and seven of the RMA have been taken off the table.

LGNZ vice president Brendan Duffy is optimistic the changes will streamline planning processes for councils and standardise some aspects of resource management plans.

"Planning costs across the country are in the millions. We welcome amendments that will make these processes easier and more cost efficient for councils and our communities," he said.

Opposition parties, however, aren't so sure about the reforms.

The Green Party's environment spokeswoman Eugenie Sage accepts RMA processes can be improved, but communities and the public need to be consulted on plans and new development.

"We need effective environmental safeguards, robust and well informed planning and consent decisions, not hasty, narrow, fast track processes," she said.

"The proposed RMA changes must not erode protection of the places we hold most dear: our beaches, rivers, and natural areas. They must not promote ugly urban sprawl at the expense of liveable towns and cities well connected to public transport."

Labour's environment spokeswoman Megan Woods says the RMA's core environmental protections must remain.

"That is our bottom line," she said.

"Our offer to work together on sensible reforms is still on the table."

Dr Smith has said he's hopeful other political parties, including Labour and NZ First, will support the government's proposed changes.

The Maori Party has guaranteed its support to get the bill to the select committee stage.