The Government promised a busy 100 days and the pace of reform has continued through 2024, particularly in the policy space. Following the repeal of the SPA and NBEA in December 23, NZPI’s Principal Policy Advisor Emily Grace has been leading the Institute’s response to the wave of resource management reforms. We provide a recap this week on what’s been going on.

First off the mark for the year was NZPI’s response to correspondence from Chris Bishop, Minister Responsible for RMA Reform, received on January 31st. This letter advised stakeholders about the Government’s plans to develop fast-track consenting legislation and introduce changes to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management in early 2024. We consider all engagement with the Minister is a critical part of working toward being “inside the tent” and providing valuable input on behalf of planning practitioners responsible for the implementation of RM legislation.

NZPI provided feedback to the Minister on fast-track consenting before the Bill was first heard on March 7th. NZPI’s analysis of this Bill was presented as a webinar titled 2024 Overview of the Fast Track Consenting Bill. This recorded presentation is available at Planning on Demand HERE. The Fast Track Consenting Bill is currently before the Environment Select Committee and NZPI made a written submission on this Bill on April 19th, then spoke to the submission at select committee on May 2nd. The Select Committee is expected to report back to the House on September 7th.

In his speech to delegates at the 2024 NZPI Conference, Minister Bishop outlined the Government’s plan for three phases of RMA reform. Phase 1 was repeal of the NBEA and SPA, Phase 2 is the Fast Track Consenting Bill and other legislation to amend parts of the RMA (and in particular the NPS on Freshwater Management), and Phase 3 will be a larger piece of legislation, which is intended to be a replacement of the RMA.

Following on from the introduction of the Fast Track Approvals Bill, RM reform has continued at pace. Once again, the Minister sought feedback from NZPI at the end of March on the development of the second RMA Amendment Bill, although there was a very short timeframe for this feedback. We shared the following with the Minister: -

“NZPI has played an active role in RMA reform processes to-date. We take a long-term, system-wide approach to reform. We have prepared a position statement on what we think the essential aspects of a planning system for New Zealand are. While this does not include specific amendments to the RMA, it outlines what any short-term changes should be aiming to achieve for them to be consistent with longer-term aims for RMA reform.”

NZPI also shared its willingness to engage with the legislation development process, suggesting NZPI would be an ideal tester or sense checker of the proposed amendments; “we would welcome the opportunity to discuss the longer-term reform of the RMA (Phase Three) and how we can contribute to that stage of the process”.

On May 10th government announced that the Finance and Expenditure Committee will conduct an inquiry into guiding objectives and principles for the design of a climate adaptation framework. At first glance this inquiry appears to have a narrower scope than the inquiry initiated under the previous government, with a particular focus on sharing the costs of adapting to climate change and certainty around protection works and managed retreat. This is still a significant area of work to consider. Public submissions on this Inquiry close on June 16th.

On May 20th some of you joined Emily Grace, NZPI’s Principal Policy Advisor and representatives from RMAG, who provided an update to members on what is happening with RM reform. The webinar will be available at Planning on Demand soon. This was soon followed by the introduction of the Resource Management (Freshwater and Other Matters) Amendment Bill on May 23rd. The Bill was referred to the Primary Production Select Committee and submission opened. Submissions close on June 30th and the Committee will report back to the House by September 30th.

In what looks to be a further component of RM reform (stage 2) the first reading of the Resource Management (Extended Duration of Coastal Permits for Marine Farms) Amendment Bill occurred on June 1st. Submissions on this Bill, once again to the Primary Production Select Committee, close on June 16th and the Committee will report back to the House by July 18th.

In summary, that’s three submission processes currently open, two closing at the end of next week (June 16th) and the other at the end of the month (June 30th, or Thursday 27th if you don’t want to work Matariki weekend!).

Despite the busyness in the policy space, we believe that we now have a great system of engagement in place. Critical to this system is Emily Grace, who brings a unique skillset to the Principal Policy Advisor role, having degrees in law and physical geography and who has been a Full member of NZPI since 2011 . She has particular expertise when reviewing proposed legislation and is well regarded in the policy space where she provides a truly independent view. Emily is responsible for the development of NZPI’s submissions for the approval of the RM Advisory Group (RMAG).

RMAG is a sub-committee of the Board, with some non-board members. They meet regularly to discuss current issues and provide direction to Emily on submissions and position papers. Their work is significant in supporting NZPI’s policy programme.

It is important to the RMAG that member views are reflected in the submissions, which is why Emily uses the Think Tank to help inform the development of submissions. The Think Tank is separate to RMAG and are a group of practitioners with a willingness to voluntarily take part in discussion groups and provide feedback toward the preparation of submissions.

Emily meets with her international counterparts every three months, sharing ideas on best practice. She’s observed that while they usually come together to consider a particular topic, they all have similar global planning issues. Last month Emily invited Cleo Corbett and Carolyn Gisborne from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation to speak to members at a webinar titled Canadian Initiatives for Housing Supply, which will also be available at Planning on Demand soon. It’s partly through this relationship that APA’s Petra Hurtado will be presenting to NZPI members at a lunchtime webinar on June 25th on their 2024 Trend Report for Planners.

Emily recently attended the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) Congress in Melbourne where she strengthened her international connections and made some important observations. “What a difference scale makes” says Emily. “Lessons learned were to think outside the box and to broaden our horizons to see what we can address together”.

Emily’s upcoming lunchtime webinar on June 11th, providing an Overview of the First RMA Amendment Bill, is a great opportunity to hear her analysis of both of the recently released RM Amendment Bills and take part in these important discussions. Gain CPD points and register for next week’s webinar HERE