Resource Legislation Amendment Bill

A Review of the Select Committee Report


A further step in the drawn out Resource Legislation Amendment Bill process was recently completed. The Local Government and Environment Select Committee announced its recommended changes to the Bill.

To re-cap, the Bill had been open for public submission before the Committee. Many submissions seeking changes were presented to the Committee. The Committee has taken several months to complete its report on those submissions and recommend changes to the Bill.

The Committee report was not unanimous. The Government MPs on the Committee issued a majority report with the opposition members issuing a minority report. The minority report recommends that the Bill not be advanced. It is understood that the Committee’s majority report replicates the recommendations of Ministry for the Environment staff as signalled in the Department’s reports released in November 2016.

The key changes the Committee has recommended to the Bill are summarised below. The Bill proposes amendments to legislation other than the RMA, but our comments are limited to the Bill’s proposed changes to the RMA.


National planning standards to reduce complexity

The standards (formerly ‘national planning templates’) are renamed as national planning standards. The purpose of the standards is to standardise the format and structure of plans, provide standard definitions, and provide for the consistent implementation of national instruments such as NESs and NPSs. This enables and provides support for the implementation of a broader national direction in plans.

The standards will also provide the required parameters for regional policy statements.
Under the Bill standards will impact on local decision-making. This is because standards may direct local authorities to amend statements and plans by including specific provisions or alternatively choosing from a number of specific provisions to include in their policy statements and plans. Changes caused by the standards are mandatory and must be made without using the schedule 1 public participatory process.

Standards are not yet developed. The Minister has two years to have the first standard approved.

In terms of content of standards they must give effect to the NPS and be consistent with the NES and regulations made under the RMA and water conservation orders.

Providing some balance, the Bill sets out matters the Minister must have regard to when approving standards. One such matter is to what extent allowance should be made for local circumstances.


A more responsive and streamlined planning process.

The Minister will retain the ability to make regulations removing plan provisions that duplicate other regimes. However the Committee has recommended reducing or narrowing these new regulation making powers. It seems that the regulation making powers could be restricted to dealing with duplications such as hazardous substances and genetically modified organisms.

In relation to plan making, the Committee supports the proposed removal of rights of appeal from plan decisions arising from the proposed collaborative plan making process. The Committee also recommends retention of the Bill’s original provisions which sought to allow a plan change or variation to be notified only on a limited basis rather than the current position of providing for public notification.

Designations or heritage orders have also come in for consideration by the Committee. A recommendation is that local authorities consider whether a designation or heritage order could also be considered within the collaborative planning process.


Consents and Processing

The Committee recommended abandoning the Bill’s proposed changes to the limited notification tests in response to submitter opposition. However the approach to public notification of consent applications is retained.

Removal of rights of appeal on boundary activities, subdivision applications and residential activities within the residential zones (other than in respect of noncomplying activities) is supported by the Committee.

The 10 day consent category for minor activities is retained by the Committee. However, its application has been narrowed so that it only applies to a controlled activity that requires a land use consent under a district plan.

Strengthening of provisions relating to management of natural hazard risks

Management of significant risks from natural hazards is retained as a matter of national importance with the Committee not recommending any further changes to the proposed Bill.


Maori participation arrangements

The Committee recommends several changes to Iwi and local authority relationship arrangements. Largely guidance for those arrangements is taken from the Next Steps for Freshwater discussion document.

The arrangements between Iwi and local authorities are intended to record how both will undertake consultation and how they will work together to develop monitoring methods, manage conflicts of interests and how they will resolve disputes.

The Committee recommends the Bill be amended so that local authorities no longer initiate such arrangements although they can still choose to do so. Now under the Committee’s proposed changes Iwi can seek to initiate a relationship at any time other than 90 days before a local body election.


Conclusion

While the Committee has made a number of changes, the main thrusts of the Bill remain. They are increased involvement of central government via national planning standards and the retention of ministerial regulation making powers. This demonstrates a general move away from the status quo of local decisions at a local level.

Next steps in the process will in part be determined by the outcome of ongoing negotiations between the Government and its support parties, particularly the Maori Party. The Bill had its second reading on 14 March 2017 and is currently before a committee of the whole House. A number of amendments have been proposed through supplementary order papers. While changes can still be made to the Bill through the Parliamentary process, further direct public involvement is not available. The final stage is the third reading of the Bill. Time through to passing the Bill into law remains unclear. In addition, based on the Bill there will be various provisions that will not come into force until sometime in the future.

Once the Bill becomes law we will provide a further commentary on changes providing our opinion on the effects of those changes.


Disclaimer: Please note that this is a brief summary for information purposes only and is not legal advice

Posted on Thursday 23rd March, 2017 at 11:48 am