Simplify Legislation for Better Urban Planning

Simplify Legislation for Better Urban Planning

A recent article in the National Business Review 'Urban planning: new approaches needed' by Nicholas Green, Principal Adviser, New Zealand Productivity Commission, was a well written reminder that 2016 is shaping up to be a busy year for planning in New Zealand. His focus was the Productivity Commission’s current inquiry into whether we can come up with a better planning system for the country than the one we have now. I think we certainly can.

Our planning regime is primarily based around three key pieces of legislation: the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA), the Local Government Act 2002 (LGA), and the Land Transport Management Act 2003 (LTMA), along with a myriad of national, regional and city/district level planning documents produced under these Acts that are in a constant cycle of preparation, review and amendment all around the country. Each of these Acts has been amended numerous times since their inception – which in the case of the Resource Management Act was 25 years ago – with the result that they are now complex and fragmented. Frankly, I have lost count of the number of band aids that have been applied to the RMA.

The latest band aid is the Resource Management Amendment Bill 2015 that was introduced late last year and is currently before the Local Government and Environment Select Committee. Submissions are being received until 14 March 2016 and there are some good 'tweaks' proposed. But tweaks they are, and that is where the blank sheet of paper approach being taken to the Productivity Commission’s current inquiry is appealing. Submissions on the Commission’s issues paper close about the same time, on 9 March 2016.

I’m a big supporter of the important role of planning and resource management in New Zealand. It’s just that in my role as General Manager Planning for Harrison Grierson, working for a diverse range of private sector and public sector clients nationwide, I often think of the massive process costs involved and whether they are really warranted by the outcomes. We‘ll never take the controversy out of some planning and resource management issues, as planning fundamentally involves reconciling different points of view and conflicting interests; and there will always be those differences. However, I do believe we can create a planning and resource management regime that better supports growth and investment, while still valuing and protecting our environment; and I think this starts with taking the complexity out of our planning and resource management processes.

Just as in politics, where they say you shouldn’t complain if you haven’t voted, the same goes here. Let’s take the time to contribute our ideas on the short term fixes (the RMA Bill) and the longer term fixes (the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Better Urban Planning), that can make our planning systems better, stronger, and faster.


This thought leadership article by Andrew Collins, General Manager - Planning, is intended to provide you with insights and relevant information on urban planning. Our thought leadership articles on topical and specialist issues are designed to present the key points in an easy to digest and interesting manner.

Back to HG Perspective