Resource management reform will help make sure New Zealand has the right infrastructure and development in the right place, while protecting and restoring our environment, Minister for the Environment David Parker says
Good quality infrastructure was necessary for good urban development, reducing emissions and managing natural hazard and climate change risks.
To address our infrastructure and development challenges we need an efficient and effective system that provides more certainty as well as reduced time frames and costs.
The Government is repealing the Resource Management Act (RMA), which has been the cornerstone of New Zealand’s environmental and development legislation for 30 years. It is expected to introduce the Natural and Built Environments Bill (NBA) and Spatial Planning Bill (SPA) to Parliament in October and intends to enact both pieces of legislation this parliamentary term.
Among the objectives for resource management reform is better enabling development within environmental limits, including significant improvements in housing supply and timely infrastructure.
A critical element in the move to create a more supportive resource management system for infrastructure and development was the shift in purpose from merely managing adverse effects under the RMA to promoting positive outcomes for both natural and built environments.
Under the NBA, the Government, along with local and regional decision-makers, will have to focus squarely on the long-term outcomes they want.
The RMA had not enabled the infrastructure and development we need.
What we have ended up with is a resource management system that is unnecessarily slow, costly and complex. Processes are difficult, litigious and uncertain.
A recent study prepared for the Infrastructure Commission Te Waihanga found this country’s infrastructure developers collectively spend $1.29 billion each year getting their projects consented, or, on average, 5.5 per cent of the total project budget. This is at the upper end of international benchmarking for approval costs.
A key change from the existing resource management system is the creation of Regional Spatial Strategies under the Spatial Planning Act. These strategies will set out long-term, high-level direction for integrated planning in a region, reflecting regional circumstances, by identifying, for example, areas appropriate for development and indicative locations for future infrastructure corridors.
The Natural and Built Environments Act will introduce a National Planning Framework (NPF) allowing the Government to give consistent national direction to decision-makers in the future resource management system, including to plan for, and enable, infrastructure within limits.
To improve consenting processes for infrastructure, and reduce timeframes and costs, the NPF is expected to contain things like good practice planning and technical standards for infrastructure.
The NPF and Regional Spatial Strategies will also give direction to local and regional decision-makers who write the NBA plans.
These will replace current RMA plans and cover both resource allocation and land use for a region.
A number of specific outcomes for the natural and built environments will be added to the decision-makers’ mix. They will include enabling housing development and providing timely infrastructure, placing clear expectations on decision-makers regarding what the new system should deliver.
As currently envisaged, the first NPF will include provisions that integrate infrastructure with other outcomes, including those related to climate change, urban development, affordable housing and the natural environment.
The NPF will carry over the medium density residential standards (MDRS) enabled by the Resource Management (Enabling Housing and Other Matters) Amendment Act (RMEHA).
The medium density residential standards (MDRS) enabled by the RMEHA enable three storey residential buildings to be built without the need for a consent in tier 1 authorities.
The RMEHA broke open restrictive planning laws that have been holding back urban development.
Conflicts between the proposed NBA outcomes, for example between building more houses and preserving farmland or developing infrastructure versus protecting outstanding natural features, will be helped by conflict resolution measures in the NPF.
Key conflicts will be identified and resolved at the level of national direction and plan-making, not at the consenting level as is often currently the case.
Engagement with the Bills’ select committee process is encouraged, which will take place once the Natural and Built Environments Bill and Spatial Planning Bill are introduced to Parliament in October 2022.