Labour claims National's policy of putting a six-month deadline on councils considering resource consent applications for developments such as retail areas and new subdivisions amounts to a "developers' charter".
Prime Minister John Key announced the new policy in Tauranga yesterday outside an office and retail development which was stalled for 20 months because of public complaints that it would require the removal of a golden elm tree.
Councils would have to decide within six months on any medium-sized developments that required public notification such as industrial developments, retail areas and regional infrastructure. There are about 1600 applications each year.
Environment Minister Nick Smith said the changes would reduce uncertainty and delay for developers. He also took a shot at council officials, saying many did not understand that delays in processing consents cost businesses significant amounts of money.
Other new policy requires councils to consider the ability of land to withstand "natural hazards" - such as liquefaction in an earthquake - when deciding on new subdivisions.
Mr Key said the six-month limit would ensure developments were processed more efficiently while still allowing time for public input. National has already put a nine-month limit on large infrastructure projects and increased penalties for delays in processing small applications, reducing the number of late consents from 16,107 in 2008 to 1807 last year.
However, Labour's environment spokesman, Charles Chauvel, said the changes were turning the Resource Management Act into a "charter for developers". He said the proposal would dilute the chance for public input.
"The reality that lies behind the announcement is that it is likely to mean increased costs, the potential for more wrong decisions and less opportunity for people to have their say about development in their neighbourhoods."
Green Party spokesman David Clendon said National's earlier RMA reforms had already shifted the balance away from environmental protection and community say and yesterday's announcement took that even further.
While in Tauranga, Mr Key also visited the Waimarie training centre, which upskills youth and unemployed for work. Mr Key said such visits were critical to assess how the Government's programmes were working.
Georgia, 16, told Mr Key that jobs were hard to come by - she had applied for about 20 positions in retail and hospitality, but got only one interview.
Chloe, 17, voiced some support for National's proposal for a "start-up" youth rate of 80 per cent of the minimum wage. She said that at first she had not liked the policy but "at least it means you can get some experience and then move into other jobs. At the moment, everyone just wants to hire people with experience."
Mr Key also met older people who were now in jobs after periods on the benefit, including workers at The Warehouse, Janie, Maria and Trisha. Janie said she had retrained and started work at The Warehouse after being on a benefit for three years.
"I thought my children were old enough and I thought it was time for myself."
Mr Key also spent time reassuring the people he met about the Rena disaster. Jordyn Barker-Ross and Sharnie Rose Cumming were concerned about the effect of the oil spill on the summer.
* Six-month time limit for councils to make resource consent decisions on medium-sized "regional" projects.
* Covers new retail and industrial developments, new subdivisions.
* Applies to about 1600 applications a year.
* Requires councils to consider "natural hazard" risks - such as the risk of liquefaction in an earthquake.