On the 3 December 2015 the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill had its first reading in Parliament and it was referred to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee for consideration. This is a long awaited sequel to changes that were first initiated by the government in 2009. There are five main themes that the changes canvas, including:

  • Improving national consistency and direction
  • Creating a responsive planning process
  • Simplifying the consenting process
  • Recognising the importance of affordable housing
  • Better alignment with other Acts

National Consistency
Although the current planning framework allows for diversity there can sometimes be too much with every district defining terms slightly differently. The government’s proposed solution is the introduction of a national planning template. As well as consolidating basic rules this will set out a structure, format and standard content to make plans easier to understand.

Responsive Planning
The current plan making process is time consuming and often adversarial. It has been noted time and again that the process to bring a plan from notification to being operative is cumbersome and expensive. To address this the government is proposing that council’s can request a streamlined process or take a collaborative approach. An obligation to consult with iwi during the early stages of plan development is also proposed.

Simplifying Consents
The government is intending to introduce proportionality to the resource consent process. For the most straightforward applications the processing timeframe will be dropped to 10 working days and marginal or temporary non-compliances could see the need for a resource consent waived altogether. Fixed fees are also likely to be required for certain types of applications as well as for certain aspects of hearings.

Affordable Housing
Council’s will be forced by the government’s changes to proactively plan for future development. One of the more radical changes is the reversal of subdivision from being restricted by the Act and allowed by rules to being allowed by the Act and restricted by rules.

Better Alignment
Reducing duplication is anticipated to be an outcome of better alignment with the Reserves Act 1977 and the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996. Other Acts to which better alignment is proposed include Conservation Act and Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012. Changes to the Public Works Act 1981 will make compensation fairer and easier for affected landowners. Most notable is the phasing out of financial contributions with a reliance on development contributions under the Local Government Act 2002.

Other Changes
The reforms will also provide better direction on the use of technology in the planning process and introduce a monitoring regime to better track New Zealand’s environmental performance. One of the most significant commitments will be enforcement action to exclude dairy cattle from waterways by 1 July 2017.

Although these changes look promising the truth will no doubt be in the detail. The third Act of the reforms is set to be the most dramatic yet and will no doubt help many while hindering some. We can let you know how these changes might affect you. More information about the reforms can be found here.