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Changes on the Horizon 

by Rachel Devine, Partner & Daniel Clay, Partner

Published: December, 2014

Submission: December, 2014


Proposed reforms to the Resource Management Act (RMA) are the most highly anticipated change expected in 2015 that will impact the environment and its regulation. That isn’t likely to be the only change though. Briefings to Incoming Ministers (Briefings) by Ministry staff suggest other important, if not so sweeping, reforms and policy shifts are under contemplation for the next three year term. In addition to RMA reforms these include.:

• Fixes for marine environment matters – responding to issues with the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement and teething issues with the Excl usive Economic Zone environmental legislation, as well as considering what could be achieved for marine reserves;

• Rigour around environmental reporting; 

• Review of controls over both new organisms and hazardous substances;

• Consideration of climate change policy and only small system changes;

• Waste laws on the ‘to-do’ list but not a high priority; and

• Local governments inching towards amalgamation plus a new development focus in Auckland.

We have reviewed key Briefings and highlight some of thechanges anticipated below:

Major system reform is on its way

The proposed reforms to the RMA are likely to be widesweeping, with a view to increasing productivity through more efficient and effective decision-making (a theme that is echoed in all Briefings in all areas of Government). Our Envirolink February 2013 describes the approach taken by the previous Minister for the Environment. With an experienced Minister for the Environment, Dr Nick Smith, returning to take up the challenge of introducing these reforms to Parliament it is likely that they will be further strengthened to ensure both impact and longevity. 

Consistent with the focus on decision-making processes, the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) Briefing recommends more national direction regarding: 

• Planning regimes (using aspects of the framework developed for the National Policy Statement on Freshwater) to reduce variability in local planning regimes and simplify decision-making processes;

• The decision-making processes of Boards of Inquiry to reduce their adversarial nature; and

• Wider and more permanent application of the abbreviated plan-making processes introduced for the Auckland and Christchurch district plans.

Once this reform proposal is introduced into Parliament everyone affected by the RMA will spend time understanding its impact. Given its wide reaching nature, it is likely to dominate discussion for a significant part of 2015.








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