Thursday, November 08, 2018

Restoring the RMA

During its final term in office, National removed democracy from the RMA by removing notification and appeal rights while allowing Ministers to dictate local plans from their office in Wellington. Now Labour is planning to repeal that as the first step in its program of RMA reform:

Stage One will reverse some objectionable changes made by the previous government in 2017 that were widely criticised.

For example, the Bill would repeal measures that prevent public notification and appeals by applicants and submitters in residential and subdivision consent applications. Proposed residential developments near existing facilities (such as ports, airports, quarries and electricity networks) can have significant impacts on existing operators and their future development options.


A Bill addressing changes that can be made straight away will be introduced to Parliament early next year.

It will address particular issues with resource consenting, and monitoring and enforcement processes in the RMA.

It will also repeal the broad regulation-making power passed last year, which enabled the Minister for the Environment to override councils. It will retain national direction powers via National Environmental Standards and National Policy Statements.

All of this is good - and amusing, requested by the developers National was trying to help, who found that not being able to submit on or appeal RMA decisions which affected them wasn't such a good idea after all. But it gets better: reading the Cabinet paper, they'll also be reinstating financial contributions (meaning councils will be able to make developers pay the full costs of the required infrastructure, rather than dumping them on ratepayers), and enabling the EPA to take enforcement action to back up councils and enforce the law where they won't.

And then there's stage 2 - the buried lead of which is putting climate change back into the law. Ironicly, it was Labour who removed it, with the Resource Management (Energy and Climate Change) Amendment Act 2004 preventing councils from considering the effects of climate change in RMA decisions. Now, it looks like they want to reverse that mistake. Which should enable councils to refuse consents for fossil fuel extraction and use, unless the impacts on the global climate are somehow mitigated. If actually enforced, that promises to be far more effective than their bullshit ETS.