Will the RMA be split in two?

Richard Harman writes:

Environment Minister Nick Smith is floating the idea of splitting the Resource Management in two.

One Act would deal with urban planning issues and the other with non urban resource and environmental management.

Not a bad idea. What do others say?

But the proposal actually comes from a former Massey University Professor of resource and Environmental Planning, Phil McDermott.

It is being promoted by the former ACT MP, Muriel Newman, who heads the libertarian New Zealand Centre for Political Research.

Mr McDermott proposes that the Government “separate environmental stewardship from responsibility for development” rewriting the so that it focuses on protecting what is important in the natural environment. 

“At the same time, the Local Government Act can be streamlined as a better means for communities to influence development,” he says.

So have the RMA focus on the environment and the Local Government Act on urban development?

Mr Smith got some unexpected support at the Forum from Fish and Game’s Bob Johnson,  Infrastructure New Zealand’s Stephen Sellwood and veteran environmentalist  Guy Salmon who all attended the session and who complained  about the difficulty the RMA had covering urban housing issues using the same fundamental criteria as it did for non-urban environmental issues.

Mr Sellwood said it was his view that the RMA was broken  and that we needed to think of much more substantive reform.

He said that it had turned the planning process into a complex litigious process.

“Planning should be a positive thing,” he said.

“Of course we need to protect the environment.

“But why are we the only nation in the world that tries to do all of this (planning and environmental protection) in one place?”

Mr Salmon took up the theme.

“The idea that we are the only country in the OECD that has tried to combine a planning act and  environmental act together — I think Geoffrey Palmer made a mistake in doing that,” he said.

“We are now finding that it isn’t working that well/.

Good food for thought.

Harman has a link at the bottom of his piece to the proposal by McDermott and others.

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