Following the release of the Technical Advisory Group report (TAG) recommending changes to Sections 6 and 7 of the Resource Management Act (RMA) there has been divergent views on the changes proposed. Some sectors support the bold changes, while others challenge the need to significantly re-write these sections. We consider that the changes that restructure Part 2 of the RMA better reflect what happens during the decision making process, and are on the right track – see our RMA reforms on the right track.

Business, developers and infrastructure providers will also welcome the proposed inclusion of the requirement to recognise and provide for:

  • the planning, design and functioning of the built environment, including the reasonably foreseeable availability of land for urban expansion, use and development; and
  • the planning, design and functioning of significant infrastructure.

If enacted these provisions will reduce what has been acknowledged as an over-emphasis on natural resources in the current list of matters of national importance. We have not yet had a steer on whether or not the Government supports the recommendations in the TAG.

Recently, Hon Amy Adams has announced that the Government will soon be consulting on wider reforms to the RMA planned for next year. It is anticipated that the changes to Part 2 of the Act will be part of this package. This will be the first significant change to the engine room provisions of the Act. It is anticipated that there will also be debate around providing for 'availability of land for urban expansion' and the interplay of this with the desire for intensification and concerns over housing affordability. This will be on the back of the Government's announcement on 29 October of four key priorities to make housing more affordable by:

  • Increasing land supply. This will include more greenfields and brownfields developments, and allowing further intensification of cities, where appropriate.
  • Reducing delays and costs of RMA processes associated with housing. This includes introducing a six month time limit on council processing of medium sized consents.
  • In providing the timely provision of infrastructure to support new housing. This will include considering new ways to co-ordinate and manage infrastructure for subdivisions.
  • Improving productivity in the construction sector. This includes an evaluation of the Productivity Partnership's progress in achieving a 20% increase in productivity by 2020.

The Government has also announced that a Resource Management Amendment Bill will be introduced by the House by the end of this year to address some of these objectives. This Bill will incorporate a new fast track process for the Unitary Plan (see our The Unitary Plan - it's on its way article), introduce the strict time limit for processing of medium sized consent applications, and make it easier to directly refer projects to the Environment Court.

The proposed fast track process for the Unitary Plan and limited appeal rights will have significant implications for those with land interests in Auckland. It will also be important to critique the other proposed changes to consent processing to ensure, as far as possible, that they will have the intended outcomes of reducing costs and delay.

Business, industry and other stakeholders can be heard on the proposed changes to the RMA by making submissions during the Select Committee process.