We’ve completed our latest survey on RM Reform, this time on allocation of resources. You’ve told us what you think about the current first-in, first-served approach and three possible alternative approaches. There is general agreement that we need something different, support for a merit-based assessment, and scepticism of a market-based system.

Two thirds of respondents agree or strongly agree that a move away from the first-in, first-served approach to allocating resources is required, with 14% partly agreeing and 12% not agreeing at all that this is required.

It was great to see a large number of respondents making comments about this issue. Comments identified the challenges of allocating finite resources, including the difficulties of accommodating new uses and how to change existing allocations fairly, and the benefits of strategic planning for use of scarce resources. The need for certainty in the system for investment decisions was highlighted by some, along with the importance of municipal and hydro-electricity requirements. The need for the new system to better address Māori rights and interests and Te Tiriti o Waitangi obligations was also raised, although a small number of respondents had opposing views on this. There was a desire expressed by some to understand the details of any alternative before moving away from the first-in, first-served approach. Some respondents highlighted the benefits of a market-based system working along-side the first-in, first-served approach, while others emphasised the shortfalls of a market system.

There was a strong positive response to including the general allocation principles of sustainability, efficiency, and equity in the new legislation, with 70% of respondents either supporting or strongly supporting this. A further 17% of respondents partly support including these principles. The comments made by respondents suggest that while the principles are supported, there are questions about how they will be implemented and what difference they might make in practice to allocation under the new system.

We asked you about three alternatives to the first-in, first-served approach for water allocation. The strongest positive response was received for the idea of a merits-based assessment, where allocation decisions are based on a set of criteria relevant to the allocation principles of sustainability, efficiency, and equity, with 64% of respondents either supporting or strongly supporting this idea, and a further 22% partly supporting it. Comments related to a merits-based approach suggest that more detail is sought to fully understand how it would work in practice. There was also a positive response to the idea of more flexible water permits, including shorter durations and greater ability to review permits, with 61% of respondents supporting or strongly supporting this idea, and a further 19% partly supporting it. Comments acknowledge that the right balance between short durations for flexibility and agility in the system and certainty for investment decisions was a difficult one to strike.

A more negative response was received for the idea of a market-based approach to water allocation where water permits can be traded, with a third of respondents not supporting this at all. 26% of respondents supported or strongly supported this option, with a further 18% partly supporting it. Comments suggest scepticism over whether a market-based system would actually work in practice and concern that it would not be an equitable system.

We also asked you what other comments you had on allocation under the new system, related to water, coastal marine space, and new capacity for urban development. There were responses that acknowledged the inertia of the current allocation system, which makes it difficult to bring about change. There was a call to be creative and curious as we develop the new system, and to apply a long-term, holistic approach. Investment in implementation of a new system was identified as being critical. There were varying attitudes among respondents on how to give effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi in the allocation of resources. Specific to the allocation of coastal marine space, examples were provided of this working well in New Zealand. And for the allocation of new capacity for urban development, the importance of the regional spatial strategies was emphasised, as well as the threat from private plan changes to a consistent approach.