The Resource Management Reform Bill (Bill) was introduced to Parliament on 5 December 2012. It is an omnibus bill that proposes amendments to the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA), the Local Government (Auckland Transitional Provisions) Act 2010, and the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987.
The objective of the Bill is to streamline the resource consent regime, streamline the delivery of Auckland’s combined plan, improve the quality of local decision-making, and improve the workability of the RMA.
The main amendments proposed by the Bill are outlined below. This overview is derived from the Bill and the explanatory note to the Bill.
Key amendments to the Resource Management Act 1991
The main amendments to the RMA are:
- It introduces a six month time limit on council processing consents for medium-sized projects. Medium-sized projects are those that require public notification, such that the activity will have or is likely to have adverse effects on the environment that are more than minor, or the applicant requests public notification, or a rule or national environmental standard requires public notification of the application.
- An application for resource consent must include all information required by a new schedule 4. The new schedule 4 proposed by the Bill is more burdensome requiring specific information for all applications and for particular types of applications, additional information. This information is in addition to an assessment of the effects on the environment.
- The consent authority has 10 working days (up from 5 working days) to determine that an application is incomplete and accordingly, request further information.
- Amendments are made to clarify when the resource consent processing clock starts and stops, for example, the clock will stop at the time of the first request for further information in relation to an application for resource consent that is determined incomplete.
- The Environment Court is under an obligation to regulate its proceedings in a manner that best promotes their timely and cost-effective resolution.
- A rule protecting a tree or group of trees may be included in a district plan only if specifically identified in a schedule to the plan by street address or legal description, or both. In relation to a group of trees, a specific definition in the RMA must be satisfied.
- The situations in which a consent authority may make a direct referral to the Environment Court for applications for resource consent are clarified. For example, if the value of an investment in a proposal is likely to meet or exceed any threshold amount prescribed by regulations, a consent authority must directly refer the application for resource consent to the Environment Court.
- The responsibility of consent authorities is increased, for example, consent authorities must address issues and suggest conditions in their reports on applications relating to resource consents, provide with their reports a summary of submissions received, and provide assistance to the Environment Court in relation to their reports.
- Section 32 of the Act which provides the requirements for the preparation and publishing of evaluation reports is deleted and replaced with a new s 32 and a new s 32AA. The new requirements under s 32 of the Bill provide that an evaluation report must:
- provide other reasonably practicable options for achieving the objectives of the proposal; and
- provide an assessment of the efficiency and effectiveness of the provisions of the proposal in achieving the objectives of the proposal; and
- the benefits and costs of the environmental, economic, social and cultural effects that are anticipated from the implementation of the proposal must be identified, and assessed, if practicable, quantified which includes the opportunity costs for economic growth that are anticipated to be lost (but not those gained), as well as the opportunity for costs for employment that are provided or reduced; and
- the level of detail required in an evaluation report must correspond to the scale and significance of the environmental, economic, social and cultural effects that are anticipated from the implementation.
The Local Government and Environment Committee (Committee) examined the Bill and provided its recommendations to Parliament on 10 June 2013. The Committee, by majority, recommended the Bill be passed with some amendments.
It is likely that Parliament will pass the Bill based on the recommendation of the Committee. We should expect to see the Bill read a second time in the next few months. It is possible that the Bill will receive Royal Assent in the later part of this year. We will keep you updated as to the progress or otherwise of the Bill through Parliament.
If you would like further information on any issue raised in this update please contact:
Brian Joyce, Principal:
DDI: +64 9 377 8419
Krystle Gardner, Solicitor:
DDI: +64 9 965 2662
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This publication is necessarily brief and general in nature. You should seek further information before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication.