Reform of the Resource Management Act will narrow the grounds for objections to new social housing development, the minister in charge says.
Environment Minister David Parker says the two laws planned to replace the RMA would restrict grounds for opposition to who will live in planned social housing homes.
The Government wants to replace the RMA with the Natural and Built Environment Act and the Spatial Planning Act and has introduced bills.
“The NBE bill requires regional planning committees and councils not to stop land for housing on the basis that it is being provided to people with special needs or low incomes,” Parker said.
That applies to decisions on the national planning framework, plans, consents and designations.
The Spatial Planning Bill has a similar clause for decisions on regional spatial strategies, Parker said.
“People who want to object to a development can submit against it on issues such as the effect on the environment, but not because they object - for instance – to the people who will live there,” he said.
This sub-clause of the NBE Bill complies with the Bill of Rights Act which protects against discrimination, Parker said.
One former national leader said he was concerned about the change.
“I strongly support the construction of good housing for all Kiwis. My contention is that while this should not be subject to inordinate delays, it should not get a free ride through the planning system to the detriment of existing communities,” he said.
Parker has said the Government’s Resource Management Act Reforms will have a one-off cost of $864 million over 10 years split mainly between central and local government and an 11 per cent increase in costs for councils.
But the costs are well outweighed by the benefits, according to an analysis by the Ministry for the Environment, which also floats the possibility the reforms could usher in new revenue-raising tools and “environmental tax”, in part to cover costs.
National and Act said this looks a lot like a tax grab.
Parker says the benefits far outweigh the costs.
The legislation will be introduced and passed before the end of this Parliament, bringing down the curtain on 30 years of planning under the RMA.
Megan Woods, Housing Minister, has also said last month that the new laws would improve this country.
“It will make it easier and more affordable to deliver housing in the places people need, while protecting the natural environment. The intent is that more housing and urban activities will be permitted and fewer consents needed. These reforms simplify the consenting process by replacing complex consent applications with standards. This has the ability to enable faster consenting timeframes and more affordable housing, through lower development costs,” Woods said on November 15.
Estimates suggest the new system will provide annual benefits from increased housing affordability of $146 million under a conservative scenario to $834.3 million,” Woods said.
Our housing crisis had been decades in the making and unfortunately, there was no silver bullet to fixing that.
“While we have already made important strides in enabling more urban development, such as investment in critical infrastructure like pipes and roads to support more housing, there is more to do. A leaner, more responsive resource management system will help improve housing supply, affordability, and choice, and deliver better housing outcomes for Māori,” Woods said last month.
Kate Storer, a Berry Simons lawyer who specialises in resource management and planning, said the replacements could speed up consenting processes compared to what they are now.
“It’s about time. We’ve been waiting years for this. Previous governments have tried and not succeeded,” Storer said last month.
But Richard Brabant, with 40 years of experience in environmental law, said there had been nothing wrong with the RMA, “only the way it got abused and misused.” He cited a speech by ex-MP Simon Upton defending that law. The law was a world leader when it was brought in, Brabant said.
“Politically it became impossible to save the RMA because both sides of the political spectrum had been persuaded that the RMA was responsible for delays and cost when in actual fact it’s been the way it’s been applied and administered. The way the act was developed, the district plans were supposed to be very simply documents based on an approach that said what we’re concerned about is the effects of activities on the environment,” Brabant said last month.