'No easy task': Farmers react to RMA review

Federated Farmers has welcomed a move to look at simplifying the Resource Management Act, however, has cautioned that the state of local Government will make change difficult.

Environment Minister David Parker has announced an "overhaul" of the Resource Management Act (RMA) to cut complexity and costs and better protect the environment. 

Key issues to be addressed in the review would include removing "unnecessary complexity", ensuring faster and more responsive land use planning, and ensuring Māori have more participation.  

It would also clarify the meaning of iwi authority and hapū, and whether the RMA should align with the Green Party's Zero Carbon Bill if it passes. 

Federated Farmers said the Government had set a substantial challenge in the review of the RMA, as due to frequent amendments, it was now overly cumbersome, costly and complex.

Chris Allen said it would be a huge challenge to overhaul the RMA.
Chris Allen said it would be a huge challenge to overhaul the RMA. Photo credit: Supplied

Resource management spokesperson Chris Allen said the review would be no easy task, and would need to consider wide and diverse opinions and concerns. 

"There are few organisations which have been more intricately and routinely involved in resource management processes across the country since the Act first came into force than Federated Farmers, so we consider our active input on the review panel will be vital," he said.

He said Federated Farmers would support amendments that made the Act, in the Minister's words, "fit for purpose in the 21st century", and approve of any attempt to remove unnecessary complexity, delays and costs.

However, Allen said the state of local Government could be an issue.

"It's hard to make processes move faster, when regional and district councils are already under-resourced and facing increasing public pressure and inadequate central government support," said Allen.

He said there was also insufficient weighting given to the economic impacts of regulation on farms, rural communities and the regions of New Zealand. 

"The trend appears to be for central government to push national regulation onto local government, expecting them to both resource and fund processes."

The group was also worried that efforts from the rural sector may be at risk in an overhaul of the RMA.

"There has been a massive investment in time and money into changing farm practices and infrastructure, and getting a better understanding of the implications of activities on land to the environment."

"Ultimately, we don't want to see this timely opportunity to reform the RMA, being instead used simply to put up as many affordable houses as possible, with an overly urban focus, to the peril of fixing other key issues with the Act."

Cabinet has approved $7.9 million from Budget 2019, over four years, for the review.