Update: Resource Legislation Amendment Bill

The Maori Party has offered a lifeline to the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill via its recent agreement with the National Party. The National and Maori Parties have reached a deal on the Bill whereby the Maori Party agreed to support the Bill through its second and third readings, in exchange for policy concessions and some much needed reconsideration of some of the proposed changes to the RMA.

Agreement between the Maori Party and National Party

The Maori Party understandably sought greater participation for iwi as a key component of its policy agreement with the National Party. This participation is to be secured by way of Mana Whakahono a Rohe Agreements, which represent accords between iwi and local authorities that formally recognise the roles and responsibilities that iwi have in regards to resource management issues. Mana Whakahono a Rohe Agreements were advocated by the Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group who collaborated with the Maori Party on the Bill.

Other provisions agreed to between the Maori Party and National Party include:

  • Retaining Part 2 of the Resource Management Act 1991. (It seems that National are content to re-visit this post the 2017 election);
  • Reductions in proposed Ministerial regulation-making powers to provide communities with more input, which will be welcomed by most;
  • Provisions allowing Maori corporations to draw water for stock without consent. The extent of the authorisation will be interesting to see in detail;
  • Provisions enabling stock exclusion from waterways, which will similarly be welcomed by environment groups – it remains to be seen whether this translates to a positive obligation upon farmers;
  • Strengthening of requirements to manage natural hazard risks. Given recent events, such amendment will undoubtedly supported by all parties;
  • Retention of Collaborative Planning Process to encourage greater public participation;
  • Appointment of an Environment Court judge to a Review Panel to hear submissions under the Collaborative Planning Process;
  • Enabling appeals on merit, if a council deviates from the recommendations of the Review Panel, and otherwise on points of law;
  • Reductions in costs and delays associated with planning processes – exactly what this involves will be keenly awaited;
  • Removal of the proposed restrictions on involvement in applications that are limited notified; and
  • Strikeout of submissions to be discretionary rather than mandatory.

Next steps

The extent of opposition to the Bill in its original form no doubt surprised the National Party, particularly those submissions from the business community. The agreement with the Maori Party has provided a basis to pursue the Bill through the Parliamentary process, but also to enable a much needed re-think on several of the proposals. We await with interest the tabling of changes to the Bill, given details have thus far been rather general in nature. The Bill is currently before the Local Government and Environment Select Committee. It is not anticipated that the Bill will pass in 2016. This workstream is anticipated to flow into early 2017.

To read our detailed overview of the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill, click here

Posted on November 17, 2016 .