Environment Minister Nick Smith has outlined proposed new blueprints for urban development, aquaculture, biodiversity and natural hazards.

Dr Smith today released the Government's Programme of National Direction under the Resource Management Act while addressing more than 300 delegates gathered at Auckland's Viaduct Events Centre for the Environmental Defence Society's annual conference.

Along with the four new National Policy Statements - work which would be supported by funding of $20 million over the next four years that was included in this year's Budget - new National Environmental Standards were being proposed for telecommunications facilities, plantation forestry, pest control, air quality and contaminated soils.

National Policy Statements - blueprints used under the RMA to lay out nationwide environmental policies and objectives - have already been put in place for freshwater management, renewable energy generation, electricity transmission and coastal policy.

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Speaking around the need for a new urban development NPS, Dr Smith told the delegates that councils had not adequately planned for growth, which had contributed to the sorts of housing supply and affordability problems in places like Auckland and Queenstown.

"Councils have been excessively captured by nimbyism that has seen insufficient provision made for either greenfields or brownfields development," he said.

"The purpose of the NPS on housing will be to require more robust planning processes and better provision for growth."

Aquaculture, meanwhile, had been a difficult area in which regional councils had struggled to provide space for the growth of the industry.

"Our objective is to give clearer national direction and improve certainty for investment."
The third focus area, tackling the country's ongoing loss of biodiversity, had also been "fraught with difficulty".

"Positions have been highly polarised between those who view property rights as an absolute right to do whatever they wish on their own land, to those whose passions for nature are so strong that they see no difference between National Parks and private land.

"This issue is being re-litigated repeatedly across the country and we need stronger national guidance."

As part of an NPS for natural hazards, the Government wanted to strengthen the country's system for managing risks following proposed amendments to Section 6 of the RMA.

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At the conference, Dr Smith also released the Ministries for the Environment and Primary Industries' new guide on implementing the NPS for Freshwater Management.

"It recognises the role of communities in making decisions about their freshwater resources, and it has been designed to assist local authorities to make more consistent decisions based on better evidence," Dr Smith said.

"This guidance builds on work already carried out, requiring water metering, our support for the work of the Land and Water Forum, and the five-fold increase in Government funding for freshwater clean-ups.

"We will be consulting on further steps to improve freshwater management following engagements with iwi leaders and the Land and Water Forum."