First exposure draft of the replacement to the Resource Management Act released

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Environmental / Resource Management

The Government has released its long awaited first exposure draft of the Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA), the proposed replacement to the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) as part of its wider reforms touted as a ‘once-in-a-generation’ opportunity.

This release follows the Government’s February 2021 announcement to reform New Zealand’s resource management system by repealing the RMA and replacing it, in addition to the NBA, with:

  • Strategic Planning Act (SPA) to integrate with other legislation relevant to development, and require long-term regional spatial strategies; and
  • Climate Change Adaptation Act (CAA) to address complex legal and technical issues associated with managed retreat and funding and financing adaptation.

This article outlines the exposure draft of the NBA and the process to follow.

Exposure draft of the NBA

The NBA exposure draft does not contain all elements of the final Bill. Instead, it includes key elements of the proposed legislation to signal the intended reform direction and to test these elements with the wider public.

The key elements of the exposure draft include the proposed replacement to Part 2 of the RMA and a new overarching framework for planning documents. Broadly, the exposure draft contains:

  • Part 1, setting out preliminary provisions including some (but not all) definitions intended for the final legislation;
  • Part 2, which includes the purpose section and related provisions;
  • Part 3, establishing a national planning framework; and
  • Part 4, establishing natural and built environment plans.

Parts 2 to 4 are elaborated on below.

As with Part 2 of the RMA, the exposure draft signals an intention for Part 2 of the NBA to give context and direction for the remaining provisions that follow. These include:

  • A purpose section, containing a new concept “Te Oranga o te Taiao” intended to recognise the intrinsic relationship between iwi, hapū, and te Taiao (roughly, the ‘world’, ‘Earth’, ‘nature’ or ‘environment’) to better reflect te ao Māori within the resource management system;
  • Duties to “give effect to” the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, representing a departure from duties in the RMA to “take into account” the principles of Te Tiriti;
  • A new obligation on the Minister for the Environment to set environmental limits with a purpose of protecting either or both the ecological integrity of the environment and human health; and
  • A new list of environmental outcomes that decision makers must promote through the new national planning framework (under Part 3) and plans (under Part 4) to achieve the purpose of the Act. These broadly include outcomes relating to:

           - the quality, ecological integrity, mana and mauri of the environment;

           - housing supply, urban areas, and the provision of infrastructure; and

           -greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

Part 3 of the exposure draft imposes a requirement on the Minister to prepare and maintain a national planning framework. This framework is to provide an integrated direction to further the purpose of the Act, which is to then be reflected in plans under Part 4. The framework must also, among other aspects, include provisions for resolving conflicts relating to the environment including the environmental outcomes set out in Part 2.

Part 4 of the exposure draft provides that there must be natural and built environment plans (a plan) for each region (integrating district and regional functions from the existing RMA system). Although the exposure draft is yet to set this out in detail, the Government has signalled its intention to consolidate over 100 RMA policy statements and regional and district plans into about 14 plans.

Next Steps

There are many aspects of the final Bill not included in the exposure draft. These include a comprehensive outline of the plan-making process, plan governance and decision-making. Additionally, the exposure draft does not detail how consenting processes will operate.

The public will have two opportunities to make submissions on the proposed NBA.

The first, is during the Environment Committee inquiry which is expected to take 12 weeks. During this time, the Committee will ask the public to make submissions. This is an important opportunity for members of the public to get involved on key elements of the NBA exposure draft.

The Environment Committee will then report its findings to the House and Ministers will also consider other elements of the proposed legislation not included in the exposure draft.

The second opportunity for public input will be during a second select committee process, when the complete Bill is introduced to Parliament. The Government intends to do this in early 2022.

Finally, the first drafts of the SPA and CAA are expected to be released later this year. It will be at this stage that the wider proposed reforms to New Zealand’s resource management system will begin to take shape.

Further information on the submission process can be viewed here.

The full text of the NBA exposure draft and accompanying parliamentary paper can be viewed here.

Further information on how to participate in the Select Committee process is available here.

© Brookfields Lawyers 2021 – All Rights Reserved

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