RMA Bill passes first reading

  • 03/12/2015

By Peter Wilson

A Bill shelved in 2013 because there wasn't sufficient support for it has just passed its first reading by 92 votes to 14.

However, the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill isn't the same as it was when it was unveiled more than two years ago.

Environment Minister Nick Smith has dropped the most contentious clauses which amended core sections of the Resource Management ACT.

The Government had wanted to give greater weight to economic concerns when planning consents were sought, but it couldn't get majority support for doing that.

Environment Minister Nick Smith last week struck a deal with the Maori Party for the watered down version of the Bill, and Labour came on board after that.

The Bill still contains significant changes which will make planning processes quicker, cheaper and more flexible.

"There are only a few diehard Greens who don't acknowledge it needs reform," Dr Smith said when he launched the first reading debate today.

"It imposes very high administrative costs compared with other countries and there has been extreme public dissatisfaction."

If the Bill gets passed into law, councils will have a standard template for deciding planning consents.

They will have the power to waive the need for consents on minor matters, which will reduce the number by thousands every year.

"This is about reducing the bureaucracy that gets in the way of creating jobs, building homes and protecting the environment," Dr Smith said.

Labour's David Parker said the Bill represented a failure for the Government, because it had wanted it to be much stronger.

"The original Bill was fatally flawed ... the way it is now is a landmark victory for the environment," he said.

National, Labour and the Maori Party supported the Bill.

The Greens, ACT and United Future opposed it. NZ First abstained.

It has been sent to a select committee for public submissions.