Resource management review timely

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The Government’s recent announcement of a comprehensive overhaul of the Resource Management System is a nation-building opportunity that should lead to enhanced environmental and social well-being outcomes, according to the Resource Reform New Zealand (RRNZ) group that campaigned for the review.

The RRNZ, which comprises the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA), Environmental Defence Society (EDS), Property Council New Zealand, Infrastructure New Zealand and Business NZ, is pleased to see the focus finally on the Resource Management Act (RMA).

But the group also sees the review as an opportunity to look at the much wider resource management system in New Zealand.

“Unfortunately the research from our group, led by EDS, showed that the hoped for environmental protections and goals of the original 1991 Act haven’t fully materialised,” EMA chief executive Brett O’Riley says.

“The current system cannot cope with economic growth and rapid urban development.

“Environment Minister David Parker has made a significant step in recognising those issues, and making the decision to bring in strong independent oversight to the review.”

The RMA was the first legislation of its type in the world combining both environmental and planning matters. At 28 years old, it is dated — for example, it doesn’t consider climate change mitigation — and the RRNZ believes the 1991 Act is well overdue for a comprehensive overhaul and first principles review.

Infrastructure New Zealand chief executive Stephen Selwood wants the review to have wide terms of reference, and not solely focus on the RMA.

“If New Zealand is to reintroduce proactive planning and move away from the reactive philosophy underpinning the RMA, which it must, we are going to have to look at which institutions develop and implement spatial and other development plans,” Mr Sellwood says.

“The review will need to be broadened to consider which public authorities — central, regional or local — are charged with environmental and land use planning powers, how they are funded, and whether they have the capacity and motivation to deliver.

“The review needs to look at who is best placed to plan, fund and deliver local, regional and national priorities.”

With support from the others in the RRNZ group and the New Zealand Law Foundation and Borrin Foundation, EDS has looked at overseas examples, reviewed environmental outcomes here and overseas, and developed a series of scenarios of what the future could look like for environmental legislation in New Zealand.

Its final report on what the preferred approach should look like will be released in December.

“The timing is perfect, enabling us to feed our research findings work into the review,” EDS chief executive Gary Taylor says.

“While many New Zealanders will have their own views about what the outcomes of this review should be, the really important first step is that the conversation is underway.”