Reforms which will allow homeowners to carry out minor renovations such as extending their deck or building a fence without a resource consent are finally back on track after National and the Maori Party struck a deal.
The long-awaited reforms will also force councils to prioritise housing developments and to involve iwi more in the planning process.
Environment Minister Nick Smith confirmed this afternoon that the stalled Resource Management Act reforms would progress after the Maori Party agreed to back them.
The Maori Party claimed a major victory in the concessions it secured from the Government on the reforms in order to get its vote.
The party's co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said proposed changes to iwi involvement in the planning process went "beyond anything that currently exists for Maori outside of a Treaty settlement".
Co-leader Marama Fox said new provisions known as iwi participation agreements would "give iwi a chance to engage like they have never been able to engage before".
The agreements have angered New Zealand First and the Act Party, who say they amount to preferential treatment for Maori.
FOX REJECTS CLAIMS OF 'BROWN PRIVILEGE'
Fox said any fears about increased iwi involvement in the planning process were "irrational".
"We have a moral obligation in this country to respect the rights of people. That's not brown privilege, that's just clawing back some of what's already been lost."
Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, Smith said the Government supported the Maori Party's call for improved iwi participation.
"This enables iwi and councils to enter into agreements on how iwi can be involved in resource management process so as to insure their perspective is heard and understood," Smith said.
"Many councils already have these agreements through Treaty settlements or good practice."
The iwi participation agreements were included in the original bill, but required further refinement before the Maori Party came on board.
They now had a 18-month deadline for concluding any talks, rathan than six months. Flavell said this change would not undermine attempts to streamline the consent process, because Maori were unlikely to stand in the way of projects such as large housing developments.
SIMPLER AND FASTER
The reforms are designed to simplify and speed up the consenting process, which Government says is critical to building more houses and contructing them more cheaply.
Although the most contentious changes to environmental protections have been ditched, they are still controversial. The Labour and Act parties today accused the Government of making the announcement under cover of the US election results.
That was rejected by Environment Minister Nick Smith, who said the announcement came ahead of the bill's urgent return to Parliament tomorrow.
Labour Party environment spokesman David Parker described the reforms as "a terrible piece of legislation" which were opposed by developers, environmental groups, and lawyers.
He was particularly concerned about new powers for ministers to overrule councils.
Act Party leader David Seymour said the Government was burying its "weak" reforms beneath the US election news. He opposed the changes because they did not reform the core principles of the RMA.
"There's no mention of economic considerations. Property rights don't receive due recognition. More rules are heaped onto councils. There are new layers of unelected race-based bureaucracy.
Smith said the legislation was critical to improving environmental management, increasing the supply and affordability of housing, and supporting economic growth. He described it as the most comprehensive reform to the RMA since its creation 25 years ago.
RELIEF FOR HOMEOWNERS
The main change in the reforms would be the creation of a standardised, national planning template for local government. The consenting system would also be simplified, and more activities would no longer need council approval.
Renovations near the boundary of a property, such as the extension of a deck, would not require a consent if the neighbours agreed to the plans. Councils would be given discretion to waive the requirement for a consent for minor, low-impact activities. And a 10-day time limit would be introduced for simple consent applications, such as a minor house extension.
RMA reforms were first proposed in 2013 but collapsed because of opposition by the Maori Party and United Future to the removal of environmental protections.
A revised bill was introduced last December, with the support of the Maori Party at the first stage and subject to further consultation about iwi participation.