By Graham Skellern

Kim Campbell, chief executive of the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA), has one simple but strong message to the next government: Please get cracking on planning and regulatory reform.

The EMA has been part of a coalition with Property Council New Zealand, Infrastructure New Zealand and Environmental Defence Society looking at reviewing the Resource Management Act (RMA), Land Transport Management Act and Local Government Act.

"There are so many places in the acts where there's conflicts of interest and this creates unnecessary bureaucracy and inefficiency. There are too many gatekeepers. And you put the Overseas Investment Office on top of that and you wonder why we get foreign investment," says Campbell.


He says any large piece of infrastructure in New Zealand in the past 30 years has been through an Act of Parliament. "In some way the projects get caught up with the functions of the RMA, and the way city spatial and built environment plans are developed is very expensive - with no certainty of outcome. It's a disincentive. You can spend a lot of money and get nowhere."

Campbell says previous attempts at reform have been "a dog's breakfast".

"The RMA has been around 27 years and been reformed 20 times. The 2010 reform came to 700 pages. I have read it and it's completely unintelligible.

"Now Nick Smith (Environment Minister) has a set of changes he's tinkering with."

After three years of discussion, the coalition agrees that the planning system should be reformed so the market can respond -- and that the need for change is an election issue.

Campbell says a review process, lasting 18 months, should begin as soon as a new government is formed, and by the end of next term the legislative change should be marching through the House.

He says the coalition is now looking for a device to conduct the review - whether it's a Parliamentary Inquiry or a Royal Commission "without the baggage of lawyers and judges. We want practitioners - a mix of business, planners and infrastructure providers - to complete the review with advice from the legal fraternity."

Campbell suggests that a parliamentary sub-committee should trawl through all the building standards and come up with regulatory reform.

"Why do we build houses that leak, repair them and they still leak. That's a national disgrace.

"We have a Building Code where 30 inspections are made for one new house and they still leak - give me a break."

Campbell claims institutions such as government departments and quangos that support the economy are lagging behind the changes in the world, particularly in technology.

"People's behaviour changes more quickly than the institutions supporting them.

"Technology may be eroding the way we collect revenue (taxes) or look at regulating competition. Are we responding in a commercially sound way?

"We need to speed up the conversation about the way institutions are operating. It should be a monthly agenda item for the civil service."

Campbell says the current Local Government funding from rates and debt ceiling are insufficient to maintain and enhance infrastructure investment, so finding alternative funding for the region is essential.

Kim Campbell's top three issues

Continue to grow. "Businesses have to grow by exporting or getting a greater market share; if they don't grow, they will disappear."

Building leadership team competence. "We need to build owner/management capability and ambition - to enable their business to grow

Change New Zealand's planning system. "This will affect everyone in business."