The National Party's overhaul of the Resource Management Act has passed its final hurdle, eight years after it was first proposed.

The second round of reforms passed into law last night with the support of the Maori Party.

The latest amendments will standardise the consent process across the country, allow minor renovations to go ahead without consent, permit councils to exempt certain activities from the consent process, and require consents for minor activities to be approved within 10 days.

They include provisions which require councils to free up land for housing, and environmental rules which will require farmers to fence off waterways.


In exchange for its support, the Maori Party secured two concessions from National. Councils will have to sign agreements with iwi which set out the consents that will require consultation with Maori. And councils will be able to ban GM crops in their region without being over-ruled by the Government.

In one of the more contentious proposals, the Environment Minister will gain new powers to override councils on other RMA activities if they conflict with other pieces of legislation.

Environment Minister Nick Smith described it as a "major milestone" for the Government's reform programme.

"This reform delivers on National's Bluegreen agenda of supporting economic growth, more houses, better infrastructure and less bureaucracy while ensuring New Zealand's environment is well managed and protected."

Labour, the Greens, New Zealand First, Act and United Future voted against the reforms.

Labour's environment spokesman David Parker said it was "terrible" legislation which did little for housing or the environment.

National had been "politically dishonest" by blaming the RMA for New Zealand's housing woes, he said.

Green MP Julie Anne Genter said National had squandered an opportunity to make meaningful changes to the RMA.


"[The bill] does not achieve our fundamental goal of protecting the environment, and it also makes it hard for people to do things that they want to do in our towns and cities," she said.