The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill was recently introduced to Parliament by the Hon. Nick Smith.
The Bill proposes a number of changes to environmental legislation to achieve
better integration across the resource management system. The Bill had its
first reading in Parliament on 3 December 2015 before being referred to the
Local Government and Environment Select Committee. There is now an opportunity for everyone to
have a say in the development of this Bill with submissions open until 14 March
The Bill was first
proposed in 2013 and sought a much greater emphasis towards economic
development. The proposal was later dropped because of a lack of support from
the Maori Party and United Future, and again after Winston Peters’ win in
Northland in early 2015.
The Bill proposes more
pragmatic changes to process, to cut out unnecessary red tape, rather than
being politically divisive. While some say the changes don’t go far enough, the
fact that they are relatively non-controversial is evident from the general
support it is receiving.
There are 40 changes
proposed across seven pieces of environmental legislation. That’s an impact on
235 clauses and eight schedules. Narrowing that down to changes with the most
impact on Harrison Grierson clients is a challenge, but important where they
are particularly relevant.
are the issues and what is proposed in the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill?
We have 78 District
Councils in New Zealand and each District Council has its own District Plan.
Within these District Plans, there are over 50 different definitions of how to
measure the height of a building.
The proposed National Planning Templates seek to
streamline inefficiencies arising from the numerous District Plans. Councils
will be required to follow a national planning template within two years of the
amendment, which will improve consistency and reduce complexity.
The Bill introduces two new plan making processes to sit
alongside the existing process (which will now have tighter timelines). Plan
making processes have been notoriously slow and expensive – six years on
average. A new collaborative track is proposed where interest groups are
encouraged to work together to find planning solutions. A streamlined process
is proposed where the Council and Government agree on a tailored approach to
specific local conditions. The streamlined option must involve consultation and
submissions, but not necessarily a hearing. Ministerial consent at the start of
the process, as well as on the final plan would be required, but the decision
will not be subject to appeals – only judicial review.
The Bill introduces reduced requirements for consents by creating
a new 10 day fast-track for simple consents. This includes the ability to treat boundary
activities as permitted where they have been agreed by the relevant neighbours,
and the ability to treat certain activities as permitted where the effects are
no different than if there wasn’t a rule breach, and where the effects on any
persons are considered no more than minor. Fixed fees for processing and
remuneration for hearing panels and hearings is also proposed.
The proposed Bill is
requiring Stronger National Direction
for growth (ie. housing) and provision for national regulations to address
nation-wide issues like dairy stock in rivers. Stronger National Direction will
create greater consistency across plans and set clear guidance for Councils.
what does Harrison Grierson think of the proposed changes?
While the changes are
significantly less than earlier proposals, they are generally positive. The
Bill still has some hurdles to go through, but we can see real value in what is
proposed. National direction and national templates have been talked about for
years and once implemented will make it much simpler for those of us making
applications throughout the country. For clients, the biggest positive change is
the potential for a streamlined plan making process. However, the proof is in
the pudding on this one. It’ll be some time before the first application is made
- and “streamlined” doesn’t always mean less bureaucracy. Weren’t the 2009
amendments called something like that…? Reduced requirements for consents are
potentially a win but consistent application is the key. The likelihood is the
reduced requirements will benefit “mums and dads” undertaking small home alterations,
rather than property developers undertaking comprehensive residential
Q&A: Resource Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 http://www.beehive.govt.nz/sites/all/files/1.%20Q&A.pdf
Back to HG Perspective