New Zealand Law Society - Resource Legislation bill policy agreement reached

Resource Legislation bill policy agreement reached

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Environment Minister Nick Smith says the National and Māori parties have reached an agreement in policy issues in the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill and this will allow it to pass its second and third readings.

The bill was introduced on 26 November 2015 and is currently with the Local Government and Environment Committee. The bill would make amendments to the Resource Management Act 1991, the Reserves Act 1977, the Conservation Act 1987 and the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012.

Third part of RM reform agenda

The initital briefing presented to the select committee on the bill in April 2016 noted that the bill was the third Bill to form part of the Government’s resource management reform agenda. It followed the Resource Management (Simplifying and Streamlining) Amendment Act 2009: which set up the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), banned trade competitors from using the RMA to delay developments, and tightened enforcement and consent processes, significantly reducing council processing timeframes, and the Resource Management Amendment Act 2013: which made changes to the consenting system and council decision-making processes.

"The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill builds on the previous resource management reforms by focusing on substantive, long-term, system-wide reform. The Bill contains more than 35 individual proposals, many of which have been informed by public consultation through two proposal papers; Improving our resource management system and Freshwater reform 2013 and beyond, released in February and March 2013," the briefing stated.

Dr Smith says the Māori Party has strongly advocated for improved iwi participation.

"This has been achieved through including the Mana Whakahono ā Rohe/Iwi Participation Arrangement in the Bill," he says.

"This enables iwi and councils to enter into agreements on how iwi can be involved in resource management processes so as to ensure their perspective is heard and understood. Many councils already have these agreements through Treaty settlements or good practice."

Dr Smith says the Government supports these provisions because it wants iwi involved in how natural resources are managed and because formalising the process will help achieve better outcomes with less delays and costs.

First proposed in 2013

"The reforms in the Bill were first proposed in 2013 but were not able to be advanced due to the Government not being able to secure sufficient Parliamentary support. A revised Bill without the controversial changes to the purpose of the Act was introduced last December, with the support of the Māori Party for first reading but subject to further discussion on significant issues such as the iwi participation arrangements," he says.

"Submissions were heard on the Bill from April to June, and the select committee received two departmental reports – one in August and the latest just last week. Opposition parties last week refused an extension of the select committee report back date beyond 7 November, so it was reported pro-forma. The Bill will be re-referred back to the select committee by the Government."

Dr Smith says the select committee has a major task ahead to work through the 500-page departmental report and refine the drafting of the Bill.

"The Government wants to advance the legislation as quickly as possible but this is an area of law where getting the detail right is particularly important. It may be completed this year but may flow into early next year. We will also need to consult with the Māori Party on the detailed drafting when the Bill is reported back to Parliament to ensure it is consistent with the agreed policy," he says.

Māori Party position

A statement by the Māori Party says the gains it will secure around the Bill will strengthen kaitiakitanga for iwi and the protection of the environment, while balancing New Zealand's economic needs.

"We have reached agreement with the Government on the policy of this important piece of legislation and subject to the final drafting of the RLAB reflecting these agreements, we will be supporting this Bill through its remaining stages," Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell says.

"We have identified key areas in the Bill as a priority and have negotiated with National amendments to the RMA which strikes a balance between environmental protection and development."

Mr Flavell says retaining Section 6 and 7, Part 2 of the RMA, where environmental protection remain at the forefront has always been the party's stand and the call for iwi participation arrangements detailing how tangata whenua, through iwi authorities and councils, will work together throughout the planning process has been addressed.