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Community and council input critical to shaping new RM laws

Community voice is critical to getting the Resource Management (RM) Reform right, says Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ).

Community voice is critical to getting the Resource Management (RM) Reform right, says Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ).

LGNZ President Stuart Crosby said councils will be looking carefully at the exposure draft of the Natural and Built Environment Act  that released today with a view to how it will improve upon the existing Resource Management Act (RMA) and not place a further burden on communities.

“The Government is rightly taking a red pen to the RMA, with the first exposure draft released today. But after years of system failure, we all know it’s critical to get it right. This can only be achieved with input from communities. Councils are faced with significant challenges in the decades to come – from housing affordability to infrastructure investment and climate change. They are at the coalface of these issues and know their communities best,” Mr Crosby said.

“A key issue for us is how you consolidate over 100 plans into 14 regional plans without eroding the democratic right communities currently have to have a say in how their district develops. This is particularly so, given that most of the planning efficiencies in the Randerson Report seem to flow from the establishment of national planning standards.”

On the back of extensive legal advice and economic research, LGNZ is highlighting three key concerns that need to be addressed in the new legislation:

  1. The new RM system must an improvement on the current legislation, given the concerns the Parliamentary Commission for the Environment has already raised.
  2. Communities must retain a voice in local place-making if district plans are being abolished in favour of 14 regional decision-making structures.
  3. The Government must protect future transport corridors to lower the cost of infrastructure provision and make housing affordable.

“We’re broadly supportive of the RM Reform process as proposed. But as the regulatory doers of 95 percent of resource management, councils know only too well what happens if you don’t pin down critical matters when legislation is being drafted,” said Mr Crosby.

“Councils have seen three decades of red-tape that’s reduced the productivity and the wellbeing of communities even as the quality of our natural environment has gone backwards. As a country we cannot afford to repeat this process. Collectively we need to elevate the level of public debate about these reforms from ‘anything has to be better than the RMA’ to one where we critically look at the proposals to assess whether they will improve on the status quo,” said Mr Crosby.

LGNZ’s extensive advice and research, released today, includes:

“We look forward to engaging positively on the Natural and Built Environment Act, as well as the Spatial Planning Act, which is currently in development. By merging the experience of local government and the policy heft of central government, we strongly believe we can implement meaningful reform of our planning system.”