Reforms do not guarantee a better system


The old RMA is broken, but the new legislation puts even more distance between communities and decision-makers, says Local Government New Zealand President Stuart Crosby

There are grave concerns that councils will lose their power to make the best planning decisions for their community under the new resource management system.

At the heart of the reform lies the establishment of 15 Regional Planning Committees (RPCs). They will be charged with developing the plans that shape what our communities look and feel like.

RPCs will be able to make decisions independently from councils. This represents a fundamental change to local councils’ roles and responsibilities, and does not guarantee a simpler, more affordable system.

RPCs will be made up of representatives from local government, iwi/hapū. There will be a central government representative involved in regional spatial planning. The exact makeup of the committees will be decided at a regional level, requiring at least 6 members in total with a minimum of one member from each council in that given region. At least two members of the committee will be appointed by Māori appointing bodies.

There are concerns about whether individual communities will be strongly represented on the RPCs, how RPCs and their support staff will be funded and whether the work councils have done on existing planning documents, like regional and district plans, will feed into the new system.

The new system needs to protect our environment and help us build resilient, great places to live. That becomes very difficult when communities can no longer hold elected members to account for decisions that impact their neighbourhoods.

We can’t have a scenario where the voices of those living in Masterton for instance, won’t be heard amongst the louder ones that have a larger population such as Wellington.

These are once in a generation changes, the Government needs to take the time to get them right.