This week the Government introduced the Natural and Built Environment and the Spatial Planning Bills that will replace the Resource Management Act. The Bills will now go through a full select committee process. The Government aims to pass them into law before the next election.
The Resource Management Act, introduced in October 1991 combined a raft of legislation into one Act with a focus on avoiding, minimising or mitigating effects. It was considered to be an enabling piece of legislation that would provide for development while managing effects.
A key policy change sought through the reform is a move away from managing effects and towards protecting, and achieving positive outcomes for the quality of the environment. The proposed changes are intended to reduce consent fees, and shorten consent times while providing consistency in Planning and increase environmental protection.
Natural and Built Environment plans (NBE’s) plans will replace over 100 current regional and district plans, with one consolidated plan for each region (approximately 14 NBE plans for the entire country). NBE plans would be developed by joint planning committees, including representatives of regional and district councils, mana whenua and the Minister for Conservation. Hearings on the proposed plans will be conducted by an independent hearing panel, which will make recommendations to the joint planning committee before the final combined plan is adopted. Appeal rights are likely to be limited.
Significant concerns about the changes have been expressed from various sectors. Because the proposals need to go through the select committee process and are subject to political processes, there may well be changes before the Bills become Acts of Parliament