Today’s release of the proposed Resource Management Act (RMA) replacement is one of the Government’s most significant pieces of legislation this term and community input is now crucial, says the New Zealand Planning Institute (NZPI).

“The RMA replacement legislation ultimately guides the outcomes we're seeking for our cities, farmland and natural environment, and identifies the key values we're looking to maintain and protect,” says NZPI Chair Reginald Proffit.

“We urge New Zealanders to get involved and provide feedback on this incredibly important and far-reaching change. It is important communities work together and have their say on how we balance the competing needs of housing, jobs, infrastructure and environment in a uniquely Aotearoa context.

“The outcomes sought by the reform are wide ranging and fundamentally important to all New Zealanders, starting with the quality of our air, freshwater, coastal waters, and estuaries.”

Under the RMA, frustration has been expressed with timeframes and unnecessary delays while equally concern has been raised with the degradation of waterways and loss of ecological habitat. Public input is critical to ensure this legislative reform achieves intended outcomes and delivers a planning framework reflective of Aotearoa New Zealand

A first draft of the Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA) – the proposed law that will replace the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) – was released this morning by Minister for the Environment David Parker.

It outlines how more than 100 existing plans and policy statements will be consolidated into around 14 plans throughout the country, and sets out how the proposed legislation will better protect the built and natural environment.

The draft Act highlights the importance of providing a more effective role for Māori throughout the resource management system, including stronger recognition of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Decision makers would be required to “give effect to” the principles of Te Tiriti, replacing the current RMA requirement to “take into account” those principles, according to a parliamentary paper accompanying the draft.

This co-governance approach to environmental management was welcomed by NZPI.

Co-governance arrangements within RM legislation will provide consistent implementation of an Aotearoa New Zealand planning framework, a step forward in giving effect to the Tiriti o Waitangi. Treaty Settlements have been the primary impetus for Co-governance arrangements. Incorporation of Co-governance normalises this approach as simply a part of what we do.

“Restoring and protecting mana and mauri of the natural environment, and the relationship of iwi and hapū with their ancestral lands, water, wāhi tapu and other taonga, can only be achieved through taking a co-governance approach,” says Reginald.

It is important the replacement law also acknowledges the need for better implementation, as that is one of the key failings of the current RMA, adds Reginald.

“We commend the Government for getting the ball rolling. But attention to practical implementation will be essential when developing a simpler and more streamlined system.

“We believe there needs to be a commitment to resourcing territorial authorities to build strategic spatial plans that give regional effect to the proposed National Planning Framework.

“Local authorities are already stretched doing core tasks and these changes will come on top of a number of other proposed reforms. New and enhanced planning skills will be required at local government level, and this training and education needs to be planned and provided for so the people at the heart of implementation can pick up the reins and run with it.

“We agree with the Minister when he says it is critical we get this right.”

The exposure draft of the NBA is due to be released for public consultation early next month, as part of the initial select committee inquiry. NZPI will make a submission on behalf of its 3,000 members.

Parliamentary Paper on the Exposure Draft of the NBANatural and Built Environments Bill Exposure Draft