Wednesday, July 29, 2020

A once-in-a-generation change

Back in 2019, the government asked for a comprehensive, independent review of the Resource Management Act and associated legislation. That review has now reported back and recommended a complete repeal and re-enactment. Despite the headlines, this is not a "scrapping" - we're still going to have a resource management law, with planning and consenting functions. But who does what, and what legislation its in, will change.

The actual report is over 500 pages long, so it will take time for everyone to digest. But looking at the consenting chapter, all those RMA-haters who complain about "red tape" and process (AKA local democracy) are unlikely to be happy. There will still be planning rules forbidding them from doing whatever they want. If they want to do things, they will still need to submit information on what they want to do and its environmental impacts to local councils. If their proposal is controversial or has significant impacts, they will still have to be publicly notified and seek submissions. They will still have to pay attention to Māori interests. The big thing that will change is that plans will be clearer (well, that's the intention anyway) about what is allowed and what is not, public notification requirements will be specified in advance, and a Māori voice will be built into the system. Oh, and "existing use" rights (e.g. old irrigation consents) can be rolled back and there'll be new attention paid to cumulative effects. This isn't a relaxation by any measure.

Oh, and the panel told the government firmly that they need to sort out water ownership with Māori, and that the current fudge (where the government sticks its fingers in its ears and says endlessly "no-one owns water" while ignoring the entire history of this country) is fucking everything up and that the government needs to reach a settlement ASAP.

The last time any government took this sort of look at planning legislation was in ~1990, and its what gave us the RMA. If acted upon, this report is likely to change our planning regime for a generation. The next Parliament will be doing this, so think about that when you vote.