Government

Govt to restore resource consent appeal rights

Environment Minister David Parker is promising to repeal Resource Management Act reforms that last year removed rights of appeal for certain types of resource consent. The changes should be introduced to Parliament early next year.

A more comprehensive reform process for the 27-year-old law governing both environmental impacts and planning for economic development is anticipated to start in late 2019.

“The Resource Management Act is underperforming in some critical areas and needs fixing,” Parker said in a statement. He stressed these changes are separate from legislation to establish an Urban Development Authority, and to fast-track housing and urban developments.

Parker says the soon-to-be-introduced RMA reform bill will "repeal the broad regulation-making power passed last year, which enabled the Minister for the Environment to override councils". 

Meanwhile the Urban Development Authority legislation will give ministers significant powers to override the RMA process. 

The reform bill "will consider a more narrow regulation-making power that may be useful to support urban development", Parker said. National direction under the RMA would continue to be possible through National Environment Standards and National Policy Statements.

Throughout the previous government's RMA reform process, Parker criticised the removal of appeal rights as "objectionable" for undermining natural justice.

The Bill will "repeal measures that prevent public notification and appeals by applicants and submitters in residential and subdivision consent applications. Proposed residential developments near existing facilities (such as ports, airports, quarries and electricity networks) can have significant impacts on existing operators and their future development options," he said.

“Airports have recently highlighted the need to protect air noise corridors. They need to be able to participate. So do others.

“New Zealand’s largest sub-dividers have argued rights of participation should be returned, in part because they lost their appeal right against unreasonable conditions imposed by councils unconstrained by appeals."

Parker said he was aware of some resource consent applicants making non-compliant resource consent applications intentionally "to preserve public participation and appeal rights".

"The change was both unprincipled and impractical and we are fixing it.”

The Bill will also address a range of monitoring and enforcement processes, including the ability to upgrade groups of consents in line with updated standards.

"This will help speed the cleaning up of our rivers, which otherwise can be delayed for decades," Parker said.

Parker also foreshadowed "a more comprehensive review of the resource management system" to follow the Bill. This would "build on current government work priorities across urban development, climate change, and freshwater, and wider projects being led by various external groups".

That project was currently being scoped and was expected to start in 2019, Parker said.

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