MPs thought to have ditched controversial RMA changes

By Eloise Gibson

Two of the most widely criticised changes in the Government's overhaul of resource management law are believed to have been dropped.

Parliament's local government and environment committee, which has been considering more than 100 changes to the Resource Management Act, is due to report back to Parliament today after hearing from hundreds of people.

The Herald understands the committee will scrap a law change that would have limited appeal rights on planning rules. Both big business and environmental groups opposed the change, which they said would shut them out of important planning decisions.

The second controversial change tipped to be scrapped is the removal of non-complying activity status.

At present, activities that councils do not want to prohibit outright can be placed under strict controls by giving them a "non-complying" classification.

The Government wanted councils to scrap that category and reclassify activities as either prohibited or in the softer category of "discretionary" - a change Auckland Regional Council, North Shore City Council, Manukau City Council and Waikato District Council said would require an expensive overhaul of district and regional plans.

Environmental Defence Society chairman Gary Taylor said he expected other provisions in the bill fast-tracking major infrastructure projects - a key plank of the reforms - would emerge from the committee unscathed.

A raft of other changes, including a proposal to reinstate the Environment Court's ability to ask community groups for a bond to cover an opponent's costs if they lost, were likely to have been tinkered with, he said.

If he was correct, the bill would be a "win-win" for developers and the environment, said Mr Taylor.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said in May there had been considerable debate over provisions in the bill and he expected some changes.

The Herald understands a provision to scrap protection for certain trees remains. The change would require Auckland councils to individually list trees for protection in their district plans, which some councils say would bog down the plan-making process.

- NZ Herald

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