Comprehensive overhaul (NZ River)

On 10 February 2021, Minister for the Environment, David Parker, announced that the Resource Management Act 1991 (“RMA”) will be repealed and replaced with three new Acts by the end of 2022. These are the:

  • Natural and Built Environments Act;
  • Strategic Planning Act; and
  • Climate Change Adaptation Act.

These new acts seek to improve the natural environment, whilst allowing more development within environmental limits, improve housing supply and affordability, provide for greater recognition of te ao Māori and give effect to the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Natural and Built Environments Act (“NBEA”)
David Parker announced the NBEA as being the primary act replacing the RMA, and that it will provide for land use and environmental regulation. Its purpose will be to enhance the quality of the environment in order to support present and future generations’ wellbeing.

Mandatory national policies and standards will be introduced which aim to support natural environmental limits, outcomes and targets as prescribed by the NBEA. These policies and standards will be incorporated into combined regional plans, which involves a consolidation of over 100 existing regional and planning documents into 14 region wide “Natural and Built Environment Plans”.

Strategic Planning Act (“SPA”)
The SPA will integrate the RMA, Local Government Act 2002, Land Transport Management Act 2003 and the Climate Change Response Act 2002 in order to achieve more clear and efficient decision making and investment. This will give effect to the long term regional spatial strategies around development and infrastructure, consistent with the Government’s aim to strengthen national strategies and move to a single combined plan per region. This will enable the identification of areas that:

  • Need to be improved or protected;
  • Will be suitable for development;
  • Need infrastructure; and/or
  • Are vulnerable to climate change effects and natural hazards.

This act is seen as having the potential to improve housing supply, affordability and choice, and to mitigate emissions contributing to climate change.

Climate Change Adaptation Act (“CAA”)
The CAA seeks to address complex issues associated with how to plan and finance managed retreat from areas which will be significantly affected by climate change. This will be managed by the Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw.

Timing
Due to the NBEA being a significant and complex piece of legislation, the Government has planned to release an exposure draft which will be subject to a select committee inquiry and public consultation before the Bill is introduced to the House. The exposure draft will contain the main structure and indicative headings, and will reflect Cabinet decisions and any decisions to be made by a Ministerial Oversight Group. Only certain parts will be fully drafted, such as the purpose and any supporting provisions. The same will not occur for the SPA and CAA, but these will be developed alongside the NBEA.

The timeline for these acts is as follows:

  • February-April 2021: Policy decisions will be made, as well as consultation material produced. There will only be limited consultation and engagement with stakeholders directly.
  • May 2021: Exposure draft presented to the House. This will then be referred to a special select committee inquiry.
  • June-September 2021: Special select committee inquiry will consider the exposure draft. Most engagement and consultation will occur in this period.
  • December 2021: Natural and Built Environments Bill and Strategic Planning Bill will all be introduced to Parliament with a standard select committee process to consider them. The Climate Change Adaptation Bill consultation will be separate.
  • December 2022: All three Bills passed into legislation, with implementation expected to take a number of years.

Conclusion
Due to the quick turn around of this legislation, it is important to engage in its development. Interested parties and stakeholders are encouraged to take part in the select committee process. The Holland Beckett Law RMA team welcomes your enquiry as to what this reform might mean for you.

Laura is a solicitor in Holland Beckett Law’s environmental law and resource management team.