Key to Look at the RMA Reforms

Reaching Out


From Scoop Business Desk

Key confirms review of most contentious RMA reforms

Key confirms review of most contentious RMA reforms

By Pattrick Smellie Oct. 6 (BusinessDesk) – Prime Minister John Key has made his most explicit comments since the election that contentious reforms to the Resource Management Act will be reviewed and may not proceed.

Key appointed Nick Smith to the environment portfolio in his new ministry announcement today, returning him to a role previously held by Amy Adams.

Speaking to BusinessDesk after the Cabinet announcement today, Key said he expected Smith to “go away and have a very good look at” proposals to reform the RMA, which would have led to the merging of two crucial clauses, Sections 6 and 7. These clauses define the “sustainable management” principle in Section 5 of the RMA. Adams had led proposals to collapse the two interpretive clauses into one and to add economic development elements that would balance up environmental considerations.

Environmental groups and opposition parties were alarmed by the proposals, which stalled in the last Parliament after the United Future and Maori parties refused to back them. While the National party could count on the one vote available from the Act party to pass the proposals in the new Parliament, Key is signalling a willingness to hear alternative approaches, making good on commitments he made to environmental lobby leaders before the Sept. 20 election.

“The concern that the environmental agencies and lobby groups have made is a real concern about that merger of 6 and 7,” said Key. “The question is: do you need to merge 6 and 7 to deliver the outcomes that you want? There’s quite a mixture of views. Some people think it’s actually quite possible for us to not merge 6 and 7, allay some of the concerns of the environmental groups, and still deliver.”

Greater use of National Policy Statements and National Environmental Standards, which are already provided for in the existing RMA, is being proposed as a simpler alternative. It would also avoid the potential for years of litigation to establish new case law around substantially changed RMA purposes clauses.

Key also outlined two further issues requiring Smith’s attention, saying a sunset clause in existing Special Housing Area legislation needed to be “embedded in the RMA”, and that there was an as yet unpublicised issue relating to industrial land that needed resolving.

“I’d expect Nick to go and have a look at his whole building and construction portfolio and see how that ties in ultimately with the RMA reform,” Key said. “He’ll obviously go and talk to the other interested groups on both sides, from business right through to the environment, and see how that looks.”


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I was talking to Green MP Julie Ann-Genter around the Section 6 reforms of the Resource Management Act to which Ms Genter stated that the Government could look around the National Policy Statements, and National Environment Standards rather than gutting Section 6 (and 7).

Well it seems the Government might just be doing that in embarking on the NPS and NES fronts with the RMA reforms.

It will be interesting to see how Key plans to go down this road. It will be a legacy for him but whether a good or bad legacy depends how Key pulls the RMA reforms off. Also it will be interesting to see if the RMA reforms affect the Unitary Plan Hearings and results in any way as well.