Prime Minister John Key has underlined the importance of speeding up building consents to make homes more affordable after the Government's major reforms of the Resource Management Act hit a roadblock.

Mr Key admitted the proposed RMA legislation would need to be changed after National's support parties United Future and the Maori Party made a rare, joint statement of opposition to the reforms.

National had the support of Act for the bill, which is still being drafted, but needed one more vote to get it over the line.

Labour and the Greens called for the legislation to be dropped altogether while New Zealand First said it was premature to make a decision before the bill had been introduced.


United Future and the Maori Party were especially critical of the proposed amendments to the RMA's principles, which would give greater emphasis to economic development in the approval of consents.

Mr Key responded: "It's those clauses in the current law that are holding back the supply of land and that are making house prices less affordable for New Zealanders."

United Future leader Peter Dunne said he did not have a problem with proposed changes to consenting processes, but altering its principles undermined the environmental values on which the legislation was founded.

His criticism had partly been influenced by conversations with former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer, the architect of the original RMA. Mr Dunne was Associate Environment Minister under Sir Geoffrey when the act was introduced.

"To hear his views about what some of the implications for change might be was obviously significant."

Sir Geoffrey released a report yesterday commissioned by Fish and Game which said the Government's proposals would replace core environmental principles with a list of competing considerations which would weaken protection of the natural environment.

"Two decades of case law built up in relation to the interpretation of the act will be rendered redundant."

Proposed changes

• Councils to develop a single planning document for resource consents, with an agreed list of definitions.
• 10-day time limit for straightforward consents.
• New powers for government ministers to take over individual consent decisions.
• Greater consideration to be given to economic development in approving consents.
• Greater consideration of risks posed by natural hazards in approving consents.