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Stage 1 of Resource Management Act reforms

Stage 1 of Resource Management Act reforms

Stage 1 of Resource Management Act reforms

Thursday 12 December, 2019

The Resource Management Amendment Bill 2019 (“the Bill”) was introduced into the House on 23 September 2019 and has been referred to the Environment Select Committee, with a report due back on 26 March 2020.

The overarching objectives of the Bill are to reduce complexity, increase certainty, restore public participation opportunities, and improve RMA processes.

This Bill repeals changes made by the Resource Legislation Amendment Act 2017 (“RLLA”) and provides improvements and clarifications to existing RMA processes in relation to resource consents, compliance and enforcement, and Environment Court matters.

The Bill also aims to improve freshwater management and outcomes in New Zealand.

A snapshot of the key proposed changes are listed below:

  • Reduce the powers of the Minister for Environment under section 360D of the RMA to prohibit or overturn local plan rules.
  • Remove the restriction on public notification and appeals for subdivision and residential activity resource consents, and restrictions on scope of appeals.
  • Repeal the regulation-making power for additional fast-track activities. The fast-track process would only apply to district land use resource consent applications with a controlled activity status.
  • Reinstate the original presumption that subdivision is presumed to be restricted unless explicitly permitted by a district plan rule.
  • Reinstate the use of financial contributions as conditions of consent which were being phased out by April 2020. The Ministers of Education and Defence would be exempt from the imposition of financial contributions conditions on their notice of requirements.
  • Enable applicants to have processing of non-notified resource consent applications suspended.
  • Enable consent authorities to suspend processing resource consent applications until fixed administrative charges are paid.
  • Extend the time period from 20 working days to 60 working days to lodge retrospective resource consent applications for emergency works.
  • Enable a review of conditions of multiple resource consents concurrently.
  • Increase the maximum infringement fees under the RMA to $2,000 for a natural person and $4,000 for all other persons (e.g. companies or trusts).
  • Extend the statutory limitation period to file charges for prosecutions under the RMA from 6 months to 12 months.
  • Empower the Environmental Protection Authority to investigate and take enforcement action under the RMA to enhance accountability and provide support for those currently responsible for RMA enforcement.
  • Protect special advisors that provide technical assistance to the Environment Court against legal proceedings for actions they take in good faith in the performance of their duties.
  • Change of title for Principal Environment judge to Chief Environment Court judge.
  • Acting Maori Land Court judges, acting District Court judges and retired Environment Court judges can be appointed as alternate Environment judges with approval of the Chief Environment Court judge.
  • Repeal the collaborative planning process introduced by the RLLA and replace it with a new extensive freshwater planning process. This process will be mandatory for all regional councils making plans and plan changes relating to freshwater.
  • The new freshwater planning process requires regional councils to notify changes to their regional policy statements and regional plans to implement the NPS freshwater no later than 31 December 2023 and make final decisions by 31 December 2025.
  • The Minister for the Environment to appoint a Chief Freshwater Commissioner who will be responsible for convening freshwater hearing panels to hear submissions on freshwater plans.


For assistance with questions relating to this article, please contact Bridget Parham

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