RMA changes may not fix deeper problems

6 May 2016

Changes proposed for the Resource Management Act are positive but may not address the RMA’s deeper problems, says BusinessNZ in its submission on the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill.

BusinessNZ Chief Executive Kirk Hope says a fundamental problem with the RMA is that it diminishes individuals’ property rights through regulation supposedly in the public interest.

“Regulation under the Act has now broadened to cover issues that were never intended to be covered and whose coverage is not in the public interest for the sustainable management of the environment.

“The result is regulatory creep by local authorities placing unreasonable restrictions on land use, harming investor confidence and economic growth. Until this deeper issue is addressed it will be hard to fix the large number of other problems with the Act.”

Some proposed RMA changes are intended to achieve:

  • Greater central government direction of Council planning
  • A national planning template to improve consistency of Council Plans
  • A requirement for Councils to ensure sufficient land supply to meet long-term demand
  • New ‘streamlined’, ‘collaborative’, ‘fast-track’ and ‘deemed permitted’ processes

Mr Hope said these were positive intentions, but possibly unachievable as patches on the RMA’s already incoherent framework, while additional processes would increase the already high number of processes required when applying for consents.

Other proposed changes were problematic:

  • Inclusion of natural hazards as a risk to be managed under the RMA, without sufficient consideration of whether property owners or Councils are best placed to manage different levels of risk
  • Inadequate provision for compensation for regulatory takings
  • Removal of appeal rights
  • Lack of cost-benefit analysis of some key proposed changes

“Individuals and businesses need a law that enables high-quality, predictable decisions over the use or protection of physical and natural resources, but the RMA increasingly facilitates ad hoc, low-quality decisions. In the absence of a more substantive review the proposed changes, while well-intentioned, may not be sufficient to reverse this direction,” Mr Hope said.

Contact: Kirk Hope 04 496 6552 or Kathryn Asare 021 555 744

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