It’s hard to find a mayoral hopeful around the country who’s not talking about pipes, potholes or water. Minister Parker delivered his fourth speech this week in his series of discussions on Resource Management reforms. This time his focus was on the hot topic of infrastructure.

His speech reflected on the inefficiencies of the RMA in delivering infrastructure, only to be exacerbated by urban intensification and the need to adequately service these future communities.

The Minister discussed the new spatial planning function in the system, setting out a 30-year vison for each region, and also the role of the National Planning Framework (NFP) in enabling infrastructure;

“The NPF will include good practice planning and technical standards for infrastructure. This should improve consenting processes for infrastructure and reduce timeframes and associated process costs.”

How will this work?

The NFP will establish the high-level policy and rule framework for infrastructure and for the first time will have its own Infrastructure chapter under the Natural & Built Environments Act (NBA). This includes nationally consistent standards that won’t need to be reconsidered at consenting stage, e.g., sediment control. The NFP will guide decisions made at regional level in the development of each RSS.

The inclusion of infrastructure in an RSS will mean that a high-level and longer-term plan can be set down to line up all needs of future developments, e.g., schools, hospitals, and transport corridors to name a few.

Designations will still be the primary tool in planning for infrastructure. These will be included in NBA plans with a two-stage process; A Notice of Requirement to establish a “footprint” for infrastructure such as a transport corridor, and a more detailed Construction and Implementation Plan to follow. Arguably this is similar to the existing Notice of Requirement and Outline Plan of Works required under the RMA, but with an initial step where a higher level of planning will occur under each RSS, providing a longer-term vision for growth.

Other features of the Minster’s speech included longer lapse periods for designations, allowing providers time to work through the two-step process. The Minister has also signalled that the fast-track consenting process, provided for specific projects under the COVD-19 Recovery (Fast-track consenting) Act 2020 will remain for infrastructure.

The existing national direction on infrastructure, like those covering renewable energy generation, electricity transmission and telecommunication facilities, will be transitioned into the first NPF, as will the provision for medium density residential standards provided for by the 2021 Enabling Housing Supply RMA Amendment Act.

Clarity of Outcomes, Limits and Targets

A central element of reform is a focus on outcomes-based planning with direction coming from the top. The Minister has suggested that the first NPF will;

“Include provisions that integrate infrastructure with other outcomes including those related to climate change, urban development, affordable housing and the natural environment. Limits and targets will be set at a national level that align with broader goals and outcomes.”

The NFP will provide more detailed policies around key classes of infrastructure, e.g. social infrastructure, which includes schools and hospitals, and trunk infrastructure such as powerlines, pipelines and roads.

The new legislation will expand the number of permitted activities, which would have to meet limits and targets to achieve the expected outcomes. Designation powers will also be opened up to a wider range of infrastructure providers. The Minister has confirmed that infrastructure will be exempt from complying with limits where it can’t be situated anywhere else, with offsetting required if needed.

See a full copy of the Minister’s Speech Here

So what are your thoughts on Infrastructure and RM Reform?

We continue to seek your valuable feedback on these regular announcements from the Minister. We’re listening. Your comments feed into the position papers that we’re busy preparing and will inform NZPI’s submission on the upcoming Bills. When Government calls for responses in the next few months, we’ll be ready.

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Deadline 11.59pm Friday 16th September 2022.