The government’s five-year effort to reform and replace the 31-year-old Resource Management Act has succeeded, with the passage of two key pieces of legislation through Parliament.
However, the National Party is vowing to repeal both the Natural and Built Environment Act (NBA) and the Spatial Planning Act by Christmas if it gets to form a government after the October 14 election.
The architect of the complete overhaul of environmental and planning law, which all political parties have long agreed requires reform, Environment Minister David Parker, hailed the passage of the two laws for simplifying and modernising environmental and planning regulation.
National’s Resource Management Act (RMA) spokesperson, Chris Bishop, confirmed a National-led government would make repeal of both a pre-Christmas priority.
“It’s really important we do that because there’s a whole army of officials doing a lot of work on all of the implementation of the new regime,” Bishop said. The new regime is intended to come into force over a 10-year transition period.
“That starts basically the moment the bill passes. So, we have to stop all of that.”
National would then begin its own RMA reform process, which would be likely to include some elements of Labour’s new regime, including a simplified regional planning process.
National would approach the issue in three stages.
“The first stage is getting rid of the NBA and spatial planning, getting them off the statute books. The second stage is legislating our own amendments to the existing RMA, and then the third stage is comprehensive and substantive reform of the RMA.”
National would also seek a fast-tracking regime for infrastructure projects and roll back elements of the recently instituted National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity.
Parker slammed National’s intentions, saying it was ironic that National had spent nine years in government saying the RMA needed reform but had done nothing, and is now proposing to roll back work that Parker began in 2019 and has produced more than 900 pages of new law.
Parker said it is “up to the people of New Zealand as to whether they think they want to vote for a party who, having railed against the RMA, kicked it to death for decades, now for political opportunism say that they’re going to repeal these new changes and actually bring back the RMA with all its faults”.
National is also promising to repeal and replace legislation, which also passed on Wednesday, to establish new water entities that will become responsible for so-called “three waters” – drinking, waste and stormwater.
The timetable for that repeal is within the first 100 days of a National-led government.