Rural sector reacts to calls for Resource Management Act repeal

Environment Minister David Parker commissioned the review.
Environment Minister David Parker commissioned the review. Photo credit: Newshub.

Farming industry groups are welcoming an independent review calling for the Resource Management Act to be scrapped, though say they hope the process of developing new legislation will be "inclusive" and allow for "robust and fair discussion".

A comprehensive review of the act was received by the Government on Wednesday. The review, commissioned by Environment Minister David Clark, recommended that rather than amending the RMA it should be repealed and replaced with two new pieces of legislation - a Natural and Built Environments Act and a Strategic Planning Act.

Federated Farmers agreed that the current legislation needed an overhaul - calling it  "broken and no longer fit for purpose" - but said it would prefer for the act to remain within one statute, rather than be split in two.

"What started off as a relatively simple, one-stop-shop piece of legislation formed 30 years ago to promote sustainable development and environmental protection has been chewed over so much it is no longer recognisable," said Karen Williams, Federated Farmers resource management spokesperson.

"The RMA has become unwieldy and cripplingly expensive. It creates huge hurdles for development and economic wellbeing, and struggles to provide the environmental outcomes everyone wants, including addressing cumulative effects."

Williams said despite the act's shortcomings Federated Farmers supported its core "effects-based principles", which she said should be kept in any future legislation.

"We must retain the existing requirement to balance economic, cultural, social and environmental outcomes so that the legislation can deliver what Kiwis need going forward in a very different world."

The group said it looked forward to working through the details of the review with the Government and hoped the process of developing a new RMA framework would be "inclusive" and enable "parties to engage in robust and fair discussion".

Dairy New Zealand called the review "long overdue" and said it was a "positive step not only for farmers but all New Zealanders".

"Potentially replacing the RMA with two separate pieces of legislation for environment and planning makes a lot of sense and will deliver better outcomes for farm environments, which face different issues than our urban counterparts," said Dr Tim Mackle, DairyNZ's chief executive.

 "A separate environment act would also support clear and efficient environmental rule settings."

The RMA was introduced in 1991. The review - undertaken by a panel led by retired Court of Appeal Judge Tony Randerson QC - found fault with the act for, among other things, its "increasing complexity, cost and delay caused by its processes, uncertainty, and lack of responsiveness to changing circumstances and demands".

Although the review has been completed, no action to pass any legislation or make changes to the act will be able to take place before this year's upcoming general election.