Government recognises Māori role in laws to replace Resource Management Act

By Te Ao - Māori News

Environment Minister David Parker aims to scrap the Resource Management Act in the next three years



A more effective role for Māori and improved recognition of Te Tiriti o Waitangi is at the heart of three acts that will replace the Resource Management Act.

Today confirming the scrapping of the RMA in this parliamentary term, Environment Minister David Parker said the new acts were a Natural and Built Environments Act for land use and environmental regulation; a Strategic Planning Act pulling together laws on development; and a Climate Change Adaptation Act focused on managed retreat and its funding.

The environment minister says urban areas are struggling to keep pace with population growth and the need for affordable housing.

“Water quality is deteriorating, biodiversity is diminishing and there is an urgent need to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to climate change,” Parker said.

“The new laws will improve the natural environment, enable more development within environmental limits, provide an effective role for Māori, and improve housing supply and affordability.

“Planning processes will be simplified and costs and times reduced,” he said.

Mana whenua roles

The minister’s written explanation says the new acts will strengthen recognition of Te Tiriti and Māori interests, provide new roles for mana whenua in decision-making on plans, and provides for monitoring of Tiriti performance via a National Māori Advisory Board, which were recommended by an expert panel last year.

The panel led by former Appeal Court Judge Tony Randerson had emphasised the importance of providing for a much more effective role for Māori throughout the resource management system. This includes recognising the concept of Te Mana o te Taiao; giving effect to the principles of Te Titiri o Waitangi, providing for specified Tikanga Māori outcomes and promoting effective participation by mana whenua. The panel’s recommendations will be further developed through engagement with Maori.

The minister’s written explanation says the other key differences between the RMA and the proposed acts are:

  • · Planning for positive outcomes, and managing adverse effects to achieve them: Re-orientates decision-making from principally managing “adverse effects” to seeking to achieve specified positive outcomes across natural and built environments to support intergenerational wellbeing – all within environmental limits (but still also managing adverse effects). Outcomes are to be provided for in decisions, plans and consents.
  • · More integrated and strategic long-term planning: Provides for strategic planning about land use, infrastructure and environmental protection by central and local government and mana whenua.
  • · Moving to equitable and efficient resource allocation within limits: Develops a more explicit framework for recognising the allocative impacts of decision-making about land use and environmental protection, and provides tools to improve how access to resources is allocated.
  •  · Effective partnering of central & local government and iwi/Māori in planning and delivery: Focuses decision-making about land use and the environment on a series of regional partnerships between central and local government and mana whenua.
  • · Improved evidence, monitoring, feedback & oversight: Strengthens system monitoring, reporting and oversight provisions to improve transparency, accountability and delivery of outcomes.

Reduced paperwork

Under the NBA there will be a mandatory set of national policies and standards to support the natural environmental limits, outcomes and targets specified in the new law. These will be incorporated into combined regional plans prepared by local and central government and mana whenua. 

“The existing 100-plus RMA council planning documents will be reduced to about 14,”Parker says.

Other key changes include stronger national direction and one single combined plan per region. And there will be more focus on natural environmental outcomes and less on subjective amenity matters that favour the status quo. Better urban design will be pursued.

The Strategic Planning Act will integrate functions under the RMA, Local Government Act 2002, Land Transport Management Act 2003 and the Climate Change Response Act 2002 to enable clearer and more efficient decision-making and investment.

“New spatial strategies will enable regions to plan for the wellbeing of future generations, ensuring development and infrastructure occurs in the right places at the right times.”

Unaffordable housing

The Climate Change Adaptation Act responding to the effects of climate change will be progressed by Climate Change Minister James Shaw.

Parker says secure, healthy and affordable housing is at the heart of the wellbeing of New Zealand families but that it is no longer a reality for many New Zealanders.

“Urban areas hold 86 per cent of our population and experience 99 per cent of our population growth. Instead of allowing cities to respond to population growth sustainably, poor quality and restrictive planning has contributed to a lack of certainty and unaffordable housing.

“Housing problems are a complex mix of demand, costs, financing, capacity and supply and there is no silver bullet. This reform will help by improving how central and local government plan for housing and urban development. This includes better coordination of future infrastructure with land use, development and urban growth.”

Parker says the National and Built Environments Act, as the core piece of legislation replacing the RMA, will be progressed first.

“Given its significance and complexity, a special select committee inquiry will consider an exposure draft of the National and Built Environments Bill from mid-year. This will include the most important elements of the legislation, including the replacement of Part 2 of the RMA.

“I expect that the complete National and Built Environments Act and the Strategic Planning Act will be formally introduced into Parliament by the end of 2021, with the National and Built Environments Act passed by the end of 2022,” he said.

The government is working with a collective of pan Māori entities on key elements of the National and Built Environments Act including the strengthened recognition of tikanga Māori and Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Continued engagement with local government will also be crucial.

More information about the reform is available on the Ministry for the Environment’s website.