Environmental / Resource Management

Resource Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 changes more than just RMA

Continuing Brookfields commentary on the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill ("the Bill"), we look at changes that go to legislation beyond the Resource Management Act 1991 ("RMA").

One of the key objectives of the Bill is to achieve better alignment and integration across the resource management system.  In order to accomplish this, the Bill provides for a number of amendments to other statutes in order to streamline the processes to be followed, and to reduce time-consuming duplication.  The key changes to other statutes are set out below.

Reserves Act 1977

The Reserves Act currently makes provision for the exchange of land comprised in any reserve for any other land to be held for the purposes of that reserve.  As reserve land in major urban areas comes under pressure for development the mechanics of this provision have come under scrutiny.  The Bill reduces the existing section 15 to an implementation provision, and creates two new sections 14A and 14B for the authorisation of an exchange, and links this process to land use consenting and plan change provisions in the RMA. 

Section 14A would allow the Minister to consent to an exchange of reserve land of any classification, but in the case of land vested in an administering body, only on the request of the administering body pursuant to a resolution authorising the request or pursuant to a district plan change.  In the case of recreation reserves only, the administering body can itself authorise an exchange, if the person requesting the exchange has obtained resource consent or a plan change that is subject to or makes provision for the exchange.

There are consequential amendments to the RMA, including provision for a joint application for resource consent and an exchange of reserve land. 

Public Works Act 1991 ("PWA")

Amendments to the PWA are intended to improve the land acquisition and compensation process. 

  • The prohibition on the Minister of Lands delegation of the power to issue a notice of desire to acquire land is removed, although power to issue the notice of intention to take is retained solely by the Minister.  
  • Links to the RMA are strengthened, for example, by allowing the Environment Court to accept evidence that was presented at a hearing under section 39 of the RMA.
  • The current $2000 solatium that is added to compensation where land is taken or acquired that contains a dwelling used as a private residence will be increased to up to $50,000, assessed in accordance with new section 72A.  There is a separate provision in section 72C for additional compensation of between $250 and $25,000, depending on land value, for land taken or acquired where the land does not contain a dwelling that was used as the landowner's principal place of residence.

Conservation Act 1987

The provisions relating to the application for, and assessment of applications for, concessions on conservation land contained in Part 3B of the Conservation Act have been reviewed and aligned with the process for notified consents under the RMA.   As a consequence the Minister will now notify applications for concessions, rather than the intention to grant those concessions, and the submission period for objections is reduced to 20 working days.

Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012

The Bill proposes to align the process of certain notified discretionary marine consents under the Act with the board of inquiry process for nationally significant proposals under the RMA.  It also adds new provisions to provide for decommissioning structures at the end of their productive life, including a requirement for a decommissioning plan.

In addition the definition of "dumping" is extended and new definitions added, and new sections 37A to 37F are introduced to allow the Minister to adopt EEZ Policy Statements to inform decisions about applications for marine consents.  Where the Minister is notified of an application for an activity specified in section 20(2) or (4) of the Act he must appoint a board of inquiry to decide the application. 

There are new restrictions on the granting of marine dumping consents in section 62, and a default consent duration of 5 years for marine dumping under new section 73A if no duration is specified in the consent.

Process Improvements

The Bill also proposes a number of changes to Environment Court processes to support faster and more efficient resolution of appeals.  This includes giving the Court the power to require mandatory participation in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) such as mediation, conciliation or another process.  A new section 268A will require that any representative attending the ADR process must have the authority to resolve matters.  The Bill also proposes amendments to sections 279 and 280 of the RMA to grant greater powers to judges sitting alone, or commissioners sitting without a judge to hear resource consent appeals without requiring a full Environment Court hearing.  

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The contents of this publication are general in nature and are not intended to serve as a substitute for legal advice on a specific matter. In the absence of such advice no responsibility is accepted by Brookfields for reliance on any of the information provided in this publication.


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