Stage One of the RMA Changes

February 3rd, 2009 at 5:53 pm by David Farrar

John Key and Nick Smith have announced details of the initial changes to the . The bill will go to select committee in the normal way and is expected back in the House in August. What are the major changes:

  • Remove frivolous, vexatious and anti-competitive objections by increasing the fee for an appeal to the Environment Court from $55 to $500, and allow compensation to be awarded to a business where a competitor tries to use the RMA to delay competition. In my opinion the $500 filing fee is still remarkably considering some consents cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to achieve.
  • Streamlining processes for projects of significance to allow boards of inquiry to be formed, and a nine month deadline for decisions.
  • Creating an Environmental Protection Agency as an independent statutory body from the Ministry for the Environment.
  • Improving district plan development and changes by having the focus on issues rather than individual submissions, and allowing regional councils and TLAs to produce a combined RMA planning document.
  • Improving resource consent processes as only 56% of notified consents are processed on time. Councils will be required to reduce their fees when they do not process a consent within the legal timeframes.
  • Streamlining decision making by allowing applicants to choose independent commissioners instead of local body politicians – so long as they meet the cost.
  • Improving workability and compliance by increasing maximum fines from $200,000 to $600,000
  • Allow enforcement action to be taken against the Crown (currently exempt)
  • Improving national instruments with more use of national policy statements

Nick Smith also provides some examples of why we need RMA reform:

  • Wairau Pak’nSave – The proposal to develop a Pak’nSave supermarket on Wairau Road on the North Shore has been embroiled in litigation since the 1990s. Consents have been granted several times only to be appealed to higher courts, and although the supermarket building has been constructed, it is unable to operate due to ongoing litigation.
  • Long Bay Structure Plan – 12-year planning process characterised by disagreement between North Shore City Council and developer ended with Environment Court issuing a decision in favour of the council-proposed Structure Plan.
  • Whangamata Marina – Initially proposed in 1995, the Whangamata Marina proposal is still awaiting a final decision after the High Court directed the then Minister of Conservation to set his decision aside and reconsider the applications.
  • Crest Energy Marine Energy Project – After almost four years Crest Energy is awaiting an Environment Court hearing.
  • Alpurt B (Albany to Puhoi Realignment) State Highway One – RMA approvals took approximately 10 years from lodgement to completion.

Now what has been the reaction to the changes? Most of it is predictable with the Greens and allies aghast, and business and industry groups supportive.

Rodney Hide has called it a good startLabour has gone for a bob each way and said it agrees reforms are needed and just intends to scrutinise the legislation rather than necessairly oppose it. This is clealry a sign of Goff’s move to the centre.

The Environmental Defence Society has a fairly balanced take on the bill, detailing the parts they like and don’t like. Much more constructive than some otehr groups.

Former Labour Party President Bob Harvey has welcomed the changes, in his role as Mayor of Waitakere. The Wind Energy Association also supports it. If you want more renewable energy, you need RMA reform.

Also the NZ Business Council for Sustainable Development is strongly backing the reforms. They are a major advocate of environmentally friendly business practices and (for example) were big supporters of the Emissions Trading Scheme.

It will be very interesting to see how Labour votes on the changes as they go through the House.

Tags: ,

14 Responses to “Stage One of the RMA Changes”

  1. Ratbiter (1,265 comments) says:

    “Remove frivolous, vexatious and anti-competitive objections by increasing the fee for an appeal to the Environment Court from $55 to $500…”

    How would that work? Surely any business interests seriously attempting to abuse the RMA as a way of shafting their competition would stump up with $500 as readily as $55.

    The only people $500 might put a stop to would be private individuals who want to genuinely object to an application on environmental grounds. Although I agree the $500 might well weed out the busybodies from the people with real concerns about a proposal.

    [DPF: The ability to award damages if a business objects on anti-competitive grounds is the key deterrent]

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  2. Ratbiter (1,265 comments) says:

    “Improving resource consent processes as only 56% of notified consents are processed on time. Councils will be required to reduce their fees when they do not process a consent within the legal timeframes.”

    HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    Tried to demand service from your local council lately? They’re supposed to process Building Consents in 20 working days too.

    [DPF: This is why the requirement to reduce fees will provide an incentive]

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  3. Viking2 (11,283 comments) says:

    Well they can manage it right now. Most have got no work on their desks. None have been fired as far as I can tell.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  4. grumpyoldhori (2,416 comments) says:

    Whangamata Marina ?
    Now will any of the foreshore be privatised in the building of this Marina ?
    Remember how people are ranting that ALL the foreshore should be open to all kiwis regardless of race, creed or colour.
    Should that mantra apply here ?

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  5. Julian D (4 comments) says:

    David

    Nowhere does this “reform” of the RMA mention or recognise the property rights of property owners. That is, the rights of the property owner to do what they want with THEIR own property. Until there is recognition of this concept, then such reforms are really just, as “Not PC “eloquently and accurately identifies, “a chocolate-coated turd”.

    Julian

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  6. Ross Miller (1,681 comments) says:

    Congrats to all … a responsible and constructive response to Labour who, in latter years, made squalking noises about talking the talk but when push came to the shove failed misserably.

    Many regulars to this fine blog will know I am not an ACT supporter but all kudos to Rodney Hide on TV1 tonite when he fronted squarely to the rort visited on the business owner who wished to construct a shower. Sure, the disabled deserve consideration but this is just crazy. Ok, not the RMA but the building code but the two go hand in hand.

    Go Rodney, go National.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  7. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    I guess the bars will be full of despondent shinny arses tonight, drowning their sorrows. Most will be in deep shock, the realisation that they might actually have to do some work in a few months time. I just hope the bastards that made their living out of extortion get whats coming to them, that is a place at the back of the dole line.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  8. Mr Dennis (348 comments) says:

    There’s some good in it certainly, here and there. But the bad is very worrying:
    - If you can’t afford $500 plus an unspecified “security deposit” (could be thousands) your objection is considered “frivolous” and not worth hearing – talk about denying justice to the poor and to non-profit groups.
    - You would no longer have the right to appeal and seek the withdrawal of the proposal, only modifications of it.
    And lots of other stuff. More here:
    http://sjdennis.wordpress.com/2009/02/03/rma-reform-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/

    I second what Julian says – until they affirm private property rights this law will continue to be an unjust mess.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  9. kiki (425 comments) says:

    What will those that appear to support private property rights say when peoples land is taken or degraded by those “national” interest projects?

    And what will the minister of tourism say when beautiful west coast rivers go under dams?

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  10. Buggerlugs (1,609 comments) says:

    The best thing is taking the bloody local body politicians out of the equation. How can a driving instructor, a primary school teacher, a failed thespian, and an alcoholic pub owner (to pick on one TLA consents committee I know of) be expected to make decisions on major resource management issues? Fucking ridiculous.

    PS Julian – not a good idea to refer to Peter Cresswell – since the election he’s been acting like a toddler and is rapidly losing credibility…

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  11. Fox (202 comments) says:

    It’s all very well for Nick Smith to put up some examples of why reform is needed.
    But what would be far more useful is for National to explain what impact/improvement, if any (!!), their ‘reforms’ would actually have on these examples. I bet that if they were to do so, the results would extremely unimpressive, to say the least… (unless these people SERIOUSLY believe that the $500 fee is going to stop appeals in their tracks)

    I’m with Rodney on this one; this is a good start, but nothing more than that really…

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  12. PhilBest (5,120 comments) says:

    Buggerlugs, I would like to give you 1 Karma point for the first half of your posting above, but I disagree with your harshness on Peter Cresswell. You need to look past the style that irritates you; there is hardly anyone I know, doing such a good job of informing us of real, true free market opinion.

    I completely agree with Julian:

    Julian D (3) 4 0 Says:

    February 3rd, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    “Nowhere does this “reform” of the RMA mention or recognise the property rights of property owners. That is, the rights of the property owner to do what they want with THEIR own property. Until there is recognition of this concept, then such reforms are really just, as “Not PC “eloquently and accurately identifies, “a chocolate-coated turd”.”

    I also strongly agree with Peter Cresswell’s question about what is in this reform for the “little guy”. Sir James Wattie in the 1930′s, started his cannery business in his garage. The RMA and other legislation, has effectively killed off all future James Watties; and I doubt that National’s “reforms” do squat to remedy this.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  13. Neil (572 comments) says:

    I simply don’t agree with Buggerlugs with his sweeping condemnation of TLA hearing panels, their membership and the work done by them.
    I believe the great strength of the hearing process is the involvement of local councillors in local issuesl Not Wellington pen pushers or shiny bummed lawyers or consultants earning megadollars.
    TLA councillors have to undergo training, the passing of basic requirements and retraining every three years and every five years sitting the test again. In general, these people get no financial reward for quite intensive work.(On major cases that does change)
    I do agree that national interest projects, like power stations,wind farms etc should go directly to the Environment Court. However there should be local input from councils as suggested by the govt statement, perhaps two accredited members assisting the court.
    There should be protection for pro’s and anti’s, but getting rid of vexacious and malicious grievances.
    I am an accredited RMA herings member and can assure fellow bloggers that the training is at a very high level.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  14. Russ (1 comment) says:

    I have been dealing with the RMA in a professional capacity almost since its inception.
    Firstly speeding up the process by punishing TLA’s – yeah right. They will simply issue more sec 92 requests for further information to give themselves more time. TLA officers will find all sorts of rediculous reasons why they don’t have enough information (they tend to do that now!). So consultants will end up giving them more and more information. Who pays for that? you guessed it.

    Neil may be a very good hearings member but having given evidence at a few hearings over the years I’m afraid there are plenty who are not. There are some real clowns sitting on these committes at times who really should not be there.

    The problem is not the ligistaltion it is the people administering it. Unfortunately the vast majority of council officers (remember most applications are dealt with internally) are too scared or incompetant to make common sense decisions for the benefit of their community. They forget who they work for.

    The only area the changes will help is major infrastructure works.

    There is no doubt that the whole consent process in NZ is costing our economy Billions of dollars a year.

    The only way forward is to firstly decide what is more important. Jobs and growth or the right for every Tom, Dick and Harry to hold up legitimate development. Until jobs and growth are put first nothing will change. In fact the evidence form overseas is that it will only get worse.

    Me? I’m picking I will be retired before anything meaningful changes and thats close to a couple of decades away!

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.