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Proposed Resource Management Act changes- experts respond

Posted in Science Alert: Experts Respond
Dr Nick Smith

Dr Nick Smith

The Government has revealed it plans for a long-anticipated overhaul of the Resource Management Act, touting changes that will lead to more affordable housing and a better managed environment.

A number of proposed reforms to the Resource Management Act (RMA) were last night outlined by Environment Minister Dr Smith.

A Government-commissioned research paper on the RMA issues completed by MOTU Economic and Public Policy Research and a National Party summary of the proposed reforms are available here.

Dr Smith outlined ten major changes the Government would be including in its second phase of reforms in 2015:

  • Add natural hazards
  • Recognise urban planning
  • Prioritise housing affordability
  • Acknowledge importance of infrastructure
  • Greater weight to property rights
  • Speed up plan-making
  • Encouraging collaborative resolution
  • Strengthening national tools
  • Internet for simplicity and speed
  • National planning templates

“These reforms will be pragmatic and moderate,” Dr Smith states in the summary. “We want to reduce the mountain of plans and rules that make the RMA a barrier to new housing and jobs, but retain the core environmental controls that ensure we keep New Zealand special and such a great place to live.”

The SMC collected the following expert commentary on the proposed reforms.

Morten Gjerde, FNZIA, Senior Lecturer in Urban Design, Victoria University of Wellington, comments:   

“There is no question that the RMA could be modified and it may be relevant to overhaul it, as noted by Dr Smith. But the basis on which the Government proposes to make change is flawed. The Minister and his Government colleagues seem to be pursuing change exclusively from the perspective of economic development and their information sources appear to be developers’ only.

“I haven’t read too many reports commissioned by government departments that look at impacts of the RMA on social or environmental development; probably because these outcomes are fine. While I recognise the need for the Government to balance the impacts and outcomes of development activity, the only catalyst for these changes seems to be economic.

“The summary of ‘additional’ costs incurred by developers for meeting local council requirements is interesting. How can the cost of private balconies or building within height limits be extra over costs to a developer? The first is there to provide a minimal level of amenity for future residents of a housing project and the second to ensure that our streets remain enjoyable for all to walk along. In my experience as urban design consultant to several local councils I’ve come to learn that there are developers who are in it for the long haul and who appreciate the feedback they receive through the consenting process. Then there are those who can’t see past their financial calculations.

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