RMA Reform

Posted September 15, 2021

RMA Reform

The Resource Management Act (RMA) is undergoing a significant reform. The changes will have far reaching impacts to homeowners and professionals alike. In this blog we answer three key questions:

  • Why was the RMA deemed unfit for purpose?
  • What will the reform look like?
  • How will the changes affect you?

Why is the RMA is being repealed?

For a piece of legislation brought in over 30 years ago, the RMA has had its day. Over the past few years, it has come under increasing criticism for not delivering on its desired environmental or development goals. The RMA has doubled in size since its original form in 1991. According to Minister Parker, it has become too costly, takes too long, and has not adequately protected the environment.

What are the changes?

In 2020, a comprehensive review of the resource management system was undertaken. The overarching recommendation was that the RMA should be repealed and replaced with three new pieces of legislation that aim to deliver better outcomes for our environment, society, economy, and culture. This means changes for the whole country, the way we currently plan, apply for and undertake development, commercial activities and use our land. 

Over the next 3 years, the RMA reform will be rolled out and we will see the introduction of:

  • The Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA),
  • The Strategic Planning Act (SPA), and 
  • The Climate Change Adaptation Act (CCAA). 

One of the main aims of the reform is to give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi – Te Tiriti o Waitangi, better integrate planning with infrastructure, and to promote positive outcomes for both the natural and built environments. The total number of plans will be reduced to 14 across the country, which is a significant reduction from the 60 odd plans we are currently dealing with today. 

Six mandatory environmental limits (bottom lines) will be established for air, water, soil, and biodiversity. This will clearly state the biophysical limits for these resources and focus on restoration of the natural environment. These environmental limits are required to be set by the Minister for the Environment and the NBA requires the Minister to take a precautionary approach in setting the limits. The limits may be prescribed qualitatively or quantitatively and may be set at different levels for different circumstances and locations. 

In a major shift, planning will move from effects-based to environmental bottom lines and positive outcome-oriented.

How will these changes affect me?

It’s a little too early to tell. While the Government has acknowledged the need for clear and integrated reform, the exposure draft remains high-level and a lot of the detail is still to come. On first review, it appears that the focus lies with giving effect to the Treaty of Waitangi and enhancing all realms of the natural environment where possible. 

The Select Committee process provides an opportunity for the drafting to be refined and clarified to achieve its objectives. 

Please contact us if you would like to discuss the proposed changes to the RMA and become involved in the submitting on the reform. 


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