This summary outlines the principal reasons which led to the review of the resource management system and the Resource Management Review Panel’s main recommendations in their report.
This summary outlines the principal reasons which led to the review of the resource management system and the Resource Management Review Panel’s main recommendations in their report.
A chapter by chapter summary of key recommendations made in the Resource Management Review Panel report.
Note that further detailed recommendations are made within the discussion section of each chapter.
Key recommendation – Integrating land use planning and environmental protection
- An integrated approach for land use planning and environmental protection, encompassing both the built and the natural environments, should be retained in reformed legislation.
Key recommendations – Purpose and principles
- The RMA should be repealed and replaced with new legislation to be called the Natural and Built Environments Act.
- The purpose of the Natural and Built Environments Act should be to enhance the quality of the natural and built environments to support the wellbeing of present and future generations and to recognise the concept of Te Mana o te Taiao.
- The purpose of the Act should be achieved by ensuring: positive outcomes for the environment are promoted; the use, development and protection of natural and built environments is within environmental limits; and the adverse effects of activities on the environment are avoided, remedied or mitigated.
- The environment should be defined broadly to include:
- ecosystems and their constituent parts
- people and communities
- natural and built environments whether in urban or rural areas.
- There should be a requirement to give effect to the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
- Current matters of national importance should be replaced by positive outcomes specified for the natural and built environments, rural areas, tikanga Māori, historic heritage, and natural hazards and the response to climate change.
- Mandatory environmental limits should be specified for certain biophysical aspects of the environment including freshwater, coastal water, air, soil and habitats for indigenous species.
- Ministers and local authorities should be required to set targets to achieve continuing progress towards achieving the outcomes.
- There should be greater use of mandatory national direction, including the identification of features and characteristics that contribute to the quality of both natural and built environments, and to respond to climate change.
- Principles to guide implementation should be identified.
- Any conflicts in achieving the outcomes should be resolved through national direction or, in the absence of such direction, in combined plans.
- Indicative drafting of the new purpose and principles identified in this chapter along with associated definitions are provided in appendix 1 of this report.
Key recommendations – Te Tiriti o Waitangi me te ao Māori
- The concept of ‘Te Mana o te Taiao’, should be introduced into the purpose of the Natural and Built Environments Act to recognise our shared environmental ethic.
- Specific outcomes should be provided for ‘tikanga Māori’, including for the relationships of mana whenua with cultural landscapes.
- The current Treaty clause should be changed so that decision-makers under the Act are required to ‘give effect to’ the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
- A national policy statement should be required on how the principles of Te Tiriti will be given effect through functions and powers exercised under the Act.
- A more effective strategic role for Māori in the system should be provided for, including representation of mana whenua on regional spatial planning and joint planning committees.
- A National Māori Advisory Board should be established to monitor the performance of central and local government in giving effect to Te Tiriti and other functions identified in the report.
- The current Mana Whakahono ā Rohe provisions should be enhanced to provide for an integrated partnership process between mana whenua and local government to address resource management issues.
- The current legislative barriers to using the transfer of power provisions and joint management agreements should be removed and there should be a positive obligation on local authorities to investigate opportunities for their use.
- The current definitions of the terms ‘iwi authority’ and ‘tangata whenua’ should be replaced with a new definition for ‘mana whenua’.
- Provision should be made for payment of reasonable costs where Māori are undertaking resource management duties and functions in the public interest.
- The funding and support options recommended in this chapter should be implemented.
Key recommendations – Strategic integration and spatial planning
- There should be a new Strategic Planning Act to promote the social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of present and future generations through the long-term strategic integration of functions exercised under the Natural and Built Environments Act, LGA, LTMA and CCRA.
- The Strategic Planning Act should provide a framework for mandatory regional spatial planning for both land and the coastal marine area.
- Regional spatial strategies should set long-term objectives for urban growth and land use change, responding to climate change, and identifying areas inappropriate to develop for reasons such as their natural values or their importance to Māori.
- There should be flexibility for:
- the responsible Minister to determine sequencing, timing and priorities for preparation of these strategies
- spatial strategies to cover two or more regions or to focus on sub-regions in response to particular issues.
- Regional spatial strategies should set a strategic direction for at least the next 30 years, informed by longer-term data and evidence as appropriate, such as 100 year plus projections for climate change.
- Regional spatial strategies should be strategic and high level with project and sitelevel detail provided through separate implementation agreements and subsequent combined planning and funding processes.
- Regional spatial strategies should be prepared and approved by a joint committee comprising representatives of central government, the regional council, all constituent territorial authorities in the region, mana whenua and an independent chair.
- There should be significant stakeholder and community involvement in the preparation of these strategies, including through public submissions and a process similar to the special consultative procedure under the Local Government Act.
- Joint committees should seek consensus, but dispute resolution procedures should be provided including a facilitated mediation process and power for the Minister to resolve any remaining disputes.
- Regional spatial strategies should be consistent with national direction under the Natural and Built Environments Act.
- Combined plans and regional and local funding plans should be consistent with spatial strategies.
- Regional spatial strategies should be fully reviewed at least every nine years with flexibility for review within that period when required.
Key recommendations – A more responsive system
- The principles that should guide the design of a more responsive resource management system are:
- fairness and equity
- early notice and adequate time for transition
- balancing responsiveness with certainty for investment.
- The protections generally afforded to existing uses and consented activities should be retained except that:
- the powers of regional councils to modify or extinguish regional consents should be strengthened to achieve agreed outcomes and be more responsive to change
- the powers of territorial authorities should be extended to enable them to modify or extinguish existing land uses and land use consents in specific circumstances.
These should be confined to:
- where necessary to adapt to the effects of climate change or to reduce risks from natural hazards or
- where there is high risk of significant harm or damage to health, property or the natural environment, for example by the breach of an environmental limit.
Key recommendations – Climate change and natural hazards
- Outcomes should be introduced for the following matters in the purpose and principles of the proposed Natural and Built Environments Act:
- reduction of risks from natural hazards
- improved resilience to the effects of climate change, including through adaptation
- reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
- promotion of activities that mitigate emissions or sequestrate carbon
- increased use of renewable energy.
- Mandatory national direction should be required for:
- climate change mitigation consistent with the emissions reduction plan under the CCRA and in a way that aligns with and supports emissions pricing
- climate change adaptation and reduction of risks from natural hazards consistent with the national climate change risk assessment and national adaptation plan under the CCRA.
- Regional spatial strategies developed under the proposed Strategic Planning Act should be used to address at a strategic level:
- climate change mitigation, informed by the emissions reduction plan under the CCRA
- climate change adaptation and natural hazard risk reduction, informed by the national adaptation plan under the CCRA.
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, climate change adaptation and reducing risks from natural hazards should be included in the functions and powers of both regional councils and territorial authorities under the proposed Natural and Built Environments Act.
- Combined plans should be used to regulate land and resource use to give effect to the national direction and implement spatial strategies. This would include provisions under the proposed Natural and Built Environments Act to allow for adaptive planning measures.
- Powers under the Natural and Built Environments Act to modify established land uses should be used to address climate change adaptation and reduction of risks from natural hazards.
- A Managed Retreat and Climate Change Adaptation Act should be introduced to:
- provide for managed retreat, powers to change established land uses and to address liability and options for potential compensation
- establish an adaptation fund to enable central and local government to support necessary steps to address climate change adaptation and reduction of risks from natural hazards.
Key recommendations – National direction
- The current forms of national direction should be retained: national policy statements, national environmental standards, national planning standards and regulations.
- The present functions of the Minister for the Environment and the Minister of Conservation should be continued, including the mandatory requirement for a New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement.
- The purpose for national direction should be setting objectives, policies, limits, targets, standards and methods in respect of matters of national significance to give effect to the purpose and principles in the Natural and Built Environments Act and to resolve any conflicts between these matters.
- Mandatory national direction should be required on the topics specified in section 9(3) of the purpose and principles of the Natural and Built Environments Act.
- The power for the Minister for the Environment to issue discretionary national directions should be retained with some modification of the matters to be taken into account before deciding whether to do so.
- There should be a single board of inquiry process for the preparation and review of both national policy statements and national environmental standards, except for minor changes for which an alternative process can be adopted.
- All existing and new national direction should be brought together into a coherent combined set and any conflicts between them resolved.
- National directions should be reviewed every nine years but intermediate changes should also be allowed for as necessary.
- The respective roles of national policy statements and national environmental standards should be clarified and provision should be made for them to be issued separately or in a single instrument.
- The making of regulations should generally be confined to their traditional role of dealing with administrative matters but regulations to address substantive issues should be allowed in limited circumstances and subject to appropriate safeguards.
- National planning standards should have a more confined role and should be established by a process overseen by an expert advisory group which would make recommendations to the Minister for the Environment.
- To improve responsiveness to national direction:
- the ability to review existing regional permits and consents should be strengthened
- land use consents granted by territorial authorities and existing land use rights should be able to be reviewed but only in exceptional circumstances. These should be confined to:
- where necessary to adapt to the effects of climate change or to reduce risks from natural hazards, or
Key recommendations – Policy and planning framework
- There should be a mandatory plan for each region combining regional policy statements and regional and district plans.
- The functions of regional councils and territorial authorities should be clarified in the way described in this chapter.
- The combined plans should be prepared by a joint committee comprising a representative of the Minister of Conservation and representatives of:
- the regional council
- each constituent territorial authority in the region
- mana whenua.
- The role of combined plans in the new system should be to demonstrate how the outcomes set out in the purpose of the Natural and Built Environments Act will be delivered in a region, including resolution of any conflicts or tensions between outcomes (if not resolved through national direction).
- The joint committee should have authority to prepare and notify the combined plan and to make all decisions relating to the plan and subsequent processes without the need for ratification by the constituent local authorities.
- The joint committee and the secretariat supporting it should be funded by the constituent local authorities.
- The evaluation process currently undertaken under section 32 of the RMA should be retained under the Natural and Built Environments Act but should be modified in the way described in this chapter.
- Prior to notification the Ministry for the Environment should undertake an audit of the plan.
- After notification and receipt of submissions by interested parties, including the constituent local authorities and mana whenua, a hearing should be conducted by an independent hearing panel chaired by an Environment Judge.
- The independent hearing panel should make recommendations to the joint committee which should have authority to decide which recommendations to accept or reject.
- In respect of any recommendation rejected by the joint committee there should be a right of appeal to the Environment Court on the merits by any submitter. Where recommendations are accepted by the joint committee the right of appeal should be to the High Court and limited to questions of law.
- This process should also apply to plan changes with some variation to account for the nature, scale and complexity of the change.
- The preparation of combined plans should usually be undertaken after the preparation of a spatial strategy for the relevant region and reviewed at least every nine years with flexibility to review more often.
- Private plan changes should still be possible but with greater constraints on when and in what circumstances that may occur.
- These new provisions should replace all plan-making processes available under current legislation including the current Schedule 1 process, and streamlined processes and collaborative planning.
Key recommendations – Consents and approvals
- Current resource consent types should remain: land use and subdivision consents, and water, discharge and coastal permits.
- The current list of activities should remain, except for the non-complying category which should be removed.
- The current rules on notification of consent applications should be substantially changed by removing the ‘no more than minor’ effects threshold and replacing existing provisions with a combination of presumptions and plan provisions specifying when notification is to occur and in what form.
- Information requirements should be proportionate to the nature, scale and complexity of the issue.
- The matters to be considered on an application for resource consent should be amended in various respects including shifting the focus to identified outcomes and removing the ‘subject to Part 2’ reference and the permitted baseline test.
- The direct referral process should be modified. Where the relevant consent authority declines to consent to the referral the Environment Court should be permitted to approve direct referrals on stated criteria.
- An alternative dispute resolution process should be established for controlled or restricted discretionary activities in prescribed circumstances. Parties to the process should still be able to exercise rights of appeal but only by leave of the Environment Court.
- An ‘open portal’ for consent applications should be established to coordinate agency responses and encourage the bundling of applications.
- Proposals of national significance should remain but with a simplified process involving Ministerial referral to the Environment Court in accordance with prescribed criteria.
Key recommendations – Designations
- Eligibility to exercise designation powers should be centred on public-good purposes.
- Those eligible should include:
- a list of approved requiring authorities in the legislation: Ministers of the Crown, local authorities, and network utility operators that meet specified criteria
- other requiring authorities approved by the Minister for the Environment based on specified criteria.
- A new default lapse period of 10 years should be available for all designations, with extensions of up to another 10 years subject to specified criteria.
- There should be two stages in the designation process:
- a notice of requirement defining the designation footprint
- a construction and implementation plan confined to addressing construction and operational effects.
- Flexibility to combine these two stages should be provided.
- The relevant considerations for a designation requirement should be modified to also include:
- consistency with the regional spatial strategy
- its contribution to the outcomes identified in the Act, any national direction and the combined plan
- the opportunity for co-location of infrastructure within the designation.
- Requiring authorities should prepare a construction and implementation plan. This should consider the environmental effects of the construction and implementation of the work and the appropriate controls to manage those effects.
- Notices of requirement should continue to be publicly notified with appeal rights retained.
- The construction and implementation plan should be available for public and territorial authority comment prior to construction works commencing.
- Consideration should be given to extending designations into the coastal marine area.
Key recommendations – Heritage orders
- The Ministry of Culture and Heritage should continue its Strengthening Heritage Protection project as part of resource management reform. This work should include:
- investigating potential provisions for national direction on heritage
- reviewing heritage order provisions
- exploring options for dealing with ‘demolition by neglect’ issues
- This work should also investigate the interface between the Natural and Built Environments Act and the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 to provide greater clarity about which agency has primary responsibility for which aspects of heritage protection.
- Subject to the outcomes of the review above one option for heritage orders could be to provide interim protection for a heritage site while more enduring solutions are explored.
Key recommendations – Water conservation orders
- The water conservation order process should be included in the Natural and Built Environments Act, retaining the current purpose, but with the following changes:
- applications should be heard by the Environment Court in a one-stage process, with a draft order and recommendations made by the Court and referred to the Minister for the Environment for final decision-making
- applications should include a statement of proposed changes to the relevant planning documents which would be required to give effect to the order
- the Court’s recommendations should include changes to relevant planning documents to give effect to the order
- ministerial approval of the order would include changes to planning documents which would give direct effect to the order without further process
- hearings should be held at the closest practical location to the water body in question
- the application and hearing process should include mana whenua
- any relevant planning documents should ‘give effect’ to any order
- once an order is made it should be a matter for consideration in any consent applications that may impact on the water body.
- Further work should be undertaken by the Ministry for the Environment and the Department of Conservation to investigate and develop policy on the effectiveness of water conservation orders as discussed in this chapter.
Key recommendations – Allocation of resources and economic instruments
- The Natural and Built Environments Act should retain the current allocative functions for resources in the RMA.
- Allocation principles of sustainability, efficiency and equity should be included in the new Act to provide greater clarity on the outcomes sought and a consistent framework for the development of more detailed measures.
- The allocation principles should not be included in the purpose and principles of the Natural and Built Environments Act but should be in a part of the Act focused on allocation.
- A combination of regulatory and market-based mechanisms is needed to allocate resources. These should be enabled under the Natural and Built Environments Act and developed in the context of specific resources through strategic planning, national direction and combined plans.
- To enable sustainable, efficient and equitable allocation of resources, the Natural and Built Environments Act should adopt a more balanced approach to the prioritisation of existing users in resource consent processes. This includes:
- encouraging shorter permit durations, with flexibility to provide longer-term permits for major infrastructure
- providing stronger powers to review and change consent conditions
- providing for a wider range of matters to be considered in consent renewal processes
- providing powers to direct common expiry of permit terms.
- To promote more competitive urban land markets, national direction should be used to require the use of data on urban land prices, analysis of regulatory stringency, and a clear and flexible approach to urban land use regulation.
- Further work should be undertaken to explore the use of targeted rates to capture uplift in land values as a result of public works.
- To encourage greater use of economic instruments:
- future legislation should ensure there is a broad mandate for the use of tradeable rights and permits, incentives and environmental taxes and charges
- central government should provide institutional support for the development and use of economic instruments by local authorities through a combination of national direction, guidance, and support for capability.
Key recommendations – National environmental monitoring system
- The Ministry for the Environment should establish in consultation with other agencies a comprehensive, nationally coordinated environmental monitoring system with the following features:
- it should incorporate and build on the current National Monitoring System, with improvements to be more systematic about the data it collects and to make it easier for councils to use
- it should be supported with sufficient resourcing to improve the capacity and capability of central and local government, including science and data capability.
- The Minister for the Environment should provide national direction on how the system should be implemented, including national direction developed with Māori on how to incorporate Māori perspectives and mātauranga Māori into the system.
- The Ministry for the Environment should be responsible for implementing the system and monitoring performance of the system at a national level.
- Local authorities should continue to have primary responsibility for the collection of data and the monitoring of system performance at local government level.
- Combined plans should provide for monitoring and reporting.
Key recommendations – Environmental reporting
- The Ministry for the Environment and the Government Statistician should continue to be responsible for regular reporting to the Minister for the Environment on environmental outcomes at a national level.
- There should be clear links between the Natural and Built Environments Act and Environmental Reporting Act.
- Local authorities should be required to report regularly to the Ministry for the Environment on the state of the environment in their regions and districts.
- Reports on the state of the environment should be made publicly available.
Key recommendations – Oversight of system performance
- The Ministry for the Environment should have primary responsibility for oversight of the effectiveness of the resource management system, including the effectiveness of the Natural and Built Environments Act and national direction made under it.
- The combined planning joint committees should have oversight of the performance and effectiveness of combined plans.
Key recommendations – Auditing of system performance and responding to evidence of poor outcomes
- The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s role should be expanded to include a more formalised and independent auditing and oversight role of the performance and effectiveness of the resource management system and on the state of the environment.
- The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment should be required to provide regular reports to Parliament on the performance and effectiveness of the resource management system and on the state of the environment.
- These reports should be made publicly available and the Minister for the Environment should be required to identify steps to be taken to respond to issues identified.
- Local authorities should also be required to state how they will respond to issues identified that relate to their regions and districts.
Key recommendations – Compliance, monitoring and enforcement
- System links should be established between compliance monitoring, state of the environment monitoring and monitoring progress towards outcomes.
- New regional hubs should be established to undertake resource management compliance, monitoring and enforcement options.
- The offence and penalties regime should be strengthened, including by:
- increasing the maximum financial penalties
- deterring offending by extending the circumstances in which commercial gain may be taken into account in sentencing
- adjusting the maximum imprisonment term so most prosecutions may be heard as judge-alone trials
- prohibiting insurance for fines and infringement fees under the Natural and Built Environments Act
- enabling creative sentencing options
- developing new Solicitor-General prosecution guidelines for environmental cases.
- A number of new compliance, monitoring and enforcement measures should be introduced and existing measures improved, including by:
- enabling regulators to recover costs associated with permitted activity and unauthorised activity monitoring
- amending the power to require disclosure of information about those carrying out the allegedly contravening activity
- creating a new offence for contravention of a condition of consent
- enabling abatement notices for the contravention of a consent notice, or any covenant imposed by condition of consent
- establishing a new power to allow a regulator to apply for a consent revocation order in response to serious or repeated non-compliance
- providing for enforceable undertakings.
Key recommendations – Institutional roles and responsibilities
- Additional resourcing should be provided to the Ministry for the Environment to undertake its expanded role, including providing support for local authorities and mana whenua.
- Additional resources should be provided to the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to enable the Office to undertake expanded oversight and auditing roles.
- Participation by mana whenua in resource management processes should be supported by central government and local government funding and capability-building assistance.
- The Ministry for the Environment should work with professional institutes and organisations to ensure those administering the reformed RMA are appropriately equipped and upskilled to implement it.
- The Ministry for the Environment should provide easily accessible public guidance on all the essential aspects of a reformed RMA.
- A climate change adaptation fund should be established, and hazard risk management guidance provided by central government, to enable local authorities to take preemptive adaptation action on climate change effects.
Key recommendations – Environment Court
- A sitting or retired Environment Judge should chair boards of inquiry on proposed national direction.
- A sitting Environment Judge should chair independent hearing panels considering combined plans.
- The Environment Court should continue to have all its present jurisdiction and a new appellate role in the combined plan/independent hearing panel process.
- The Environment Court should hear all applications for proposals of national significance.
- Consideration should be given to a potential role for the Environment Court under separate legislation on managed retreat.
- The changes recommended in this chapter to improve access to justice should be adopted.
- The number of judges, commissioners and registry staff at the Environment Court should be increased as necessary to ensure the Court has sufficient capacity to carry out the increased range of functions we propose.
Key recommendation – Reducing complexity
- The RMA should be repealed and replaced by the Natural and Built Environments Act to reduce complexity and improve overall coherence of the legislation.
Key recommendations – Transition to a reformed system
- Work on developing transitional arrangements as part of implementing the reforms we propose in this report will need to balance stability and a smooth transition with implementation of the reforms as soon as practicable.
- The key components of the transition are:
- the timing and sequencing of national direction, regional spatial strategies and combined plans
- the impact on existing processes, consents and activities under the RMA
- the financial and resourcing implications to develop and implement the reformed system
- supporting the change in culture.
- Work should commence as soon as possible on the preparation of the Strategic Planning Act, the Natural and Built Environments Act and the Managed Retreat and Climate Change Adaptation Act.
- The Strategic Planning Act should come into effect before or at the same time as the Natural and Built Environments Act, but the Managed Retreat and Climate Change Adaptation Act could come later.
- The new legislation for the reforms we propose should be in place by the time the proposed COVID-19 recovery legislation expires.
- We would expect mandatory national directions to be completed within three years of the introduction of the Natural and Built Environments Act.
- We would expect the overall transition process to be completed within 10 years of the introduction of the Strategic Planning Act and the Natural and Built Environments Act.
- Some work should commence immediately, such as data collection and analysis to establish a robust evidence base for setting targets and limits.
- The Minister should select one region to develop the first regional spatial strategy, followed by development of the combined plan, to provide a model for other regions to follow.
Summary of key recommendations
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