Resource Management Reform: A Stocktake

Since coming to power, the Government has announced a series of major resource management legislative and policy reforms, with various timeframes for implementation. With 2019 set to be a very busy year for reform and related consultation, below we have taken stock of progress in several key areas.

If you have any queries regarding the reforms, or if you would like to discuss how they may affect you or your business, please contact one of the ChanceryGreen senior team. And stay posted for further updates as the various reforms progress.




RMA reforms


The Government is proposing changes to the RMA so that it supports a “more productive, sustainable and inclusive economy” and is “easier for New Zealanders to understand and participate in”. RMA reform is being developed in two stages:

Stage one: narrow amendments 

An RMA amendment bill is proposed to be introduced early this year, providing a set of narrowly-focussed and relatively straightforward changes to the RMA. The scope of proposed amendments includes issues relating to: resource consenting; monitoring, compliance, and enforcement; and the Environment Court. Examples of proposed changes include:

  • enabling the Environment Court to review councils’ notification decisions for resource consents
  • repealing preclusions on public notification and appeals for certain residential and subdivision consent applications
  • repealing certain broad ministerial regulation-making powers
  • reinstating the use of financial contributions
  • amendments to provide for the concurrent review of groups of consents.

There will be an opportunity for public submissions during the proposed bill’s select committee process in early 2019


Stage two: comprehensive reform

The second stage of reforms will involve a more comprehensive overhaul of the RMA, including “fundamental system changes” in areas such as urban development, climate change, and freshwater. The precise scope of the reforms has not yet been announced.

The second stage of RMA reforms will begin in 2019

Freshwater reforms

In October 2018 the Government outlined a suite of proposals for freshwater reform over the next two years in a document called Essential Freshwater: Healthy Water, Fairly Allocated

Essential Freshwater sets out the following three key objectives:

  • stopping further degradation and loss
  • reversing past damage
  • addressing water allocation issues

Workstreams include:

  • NPS: amendments to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management
  • NES: a new National Environmental Standard for Freshwater Management
  • RMA: amendments to the RMA
  • allocation: engagement and developing options for allocating water resources
  • at-risk catchments: identification of, and action/investment in, at-risk catchments
  • future framework: ongoing policy development

The proposed reform will have important implications for the full range of freshwater stakeholders.

For more detail, see our previous article on freshwater reform here

Opportunities for public comment on specific issues are expected to be provided in 2019


National Planning Standards


In June 2018 the Ministry for the Environment released the first set of Draft National Planning Standards for public consultation. The aim of the Planning Standards is to improve consistency in plan and policy statement structure, format, and content – to make RMA plans “simpler to prepare, and easier for plan users to understand, compare, and comply with”.

The Planning Standards will require major changes to RMA plans in most cases, and will have significant impacts for councils and plan users. 

For more detail, see our previous article on the proposed National Planning Standards here

Final National Planning Standards must be gazetted by April 2019

Urban development reforms


The Government is proposing a new Housing and Urban Development Authority to fast-track housing and urban development projects. Once established, the Authority will be responsible for leading urban development projects of all scales and managing public housing.

The Authority will have a range of enabling “cut through” powers that it can use to deliver large and complex urban development projects quickly, including powers relating to:

  • quicker planning and consenting processes
  • building and changing infrastructure
  • funding for infrastructure and development activities
  • bringing together parcels of land
  • reconfiguring reserves.

For more detail, see our previous article on urban development reform here

New legislation to establish the Housing and Urban Development Authority will be introduced to Parliament in 2019, with the first projects expected to begin in early 2020

Zero Carbon Bill


In mid-2018, more than 12,500 people/organisations submitted on a discussion document relating to the proposed Zero Carbon Bill. The Bill will “create the necessary enduring institutional architecture to meet New Zealand’s long-term emissions reduction goals and build resilience to the impacts of climate change.” It will include the country’s emissions reduction target.

The Zero Carbon Bill’s Select Committee process, including opportunities for public input, is expected to begin early this year, with the Zero Carbon Act proposed to come into force in July 2019

Changes to the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme


Related to the Zero Carbon Bill (above), the Government is proposing improvements to the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme (“ETS”).

Two tranches of changes are proposed. The first tranche includes decisions to:

  • Align the Climate Change Response Act 2002 with the Paris Agreement and any new domestic emissions targets
  • Enable a cap to be placed on emissions covered by the NZ ETS, including through:
    • introducing auctioning of New Zealand Units
    • limiting international units
    • retaining a price ceiling and investigating a price floor
    • managing unit supply
  • Improve the administration and operation of the NZ ETS

A second tranche of decisions is expected to be announced later this year, including regarding:

  • a potential price floor
  • how decisions to phase down industrial allocations should be made
  • additional improvements to the compliance/penalties regime

Both tranches of changes are proposed to be implemented through a bill amending the Climate Change Response Act 2002, expected to be introduced in the second half of 2019


Posted on February 1, 2019 .