16 Nov 2022

National leader Christopher Luxon 'sceptical' RMA reforms will alter status quo

9:47 am on 16 November 2022
National Party Leader Christopher Luxon

National Party leader Christopher Luxon says it will take 'an inordinate amount of time' to implement some of the changes proposed in the government's RMA reforms. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Critics of the two bills to replace the Resource Management Act (RMA), are questioning whether they will actually deliver the promised benefits.

The Natural and Built Environments and Spatial Planning bills were introduced to Parliament by Environment Minister David Parker yesterday.

The government said the reforms would improve planning for development, and make consenting for house building and infrastructure projects faster and cheaper - potentially saving hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

The new system was expected to take about a decade to bed in.

But the National Party said the proposed reforms would likely add more bureaucracy and complexity, not less.

National leader Christopher Luxon told Morning Report he was "highly sceptical" the changes would improve the status quo.

He said the plan to set up 15 regional planning committees around the country would add another layer of bureaucracy and take "an inordinate amount of time".

"It sounds great, but frankly, it's another layer of bureaucracy above the district councils the regional councils."

He said National supported RMA reform but wanted to see a simpler set of standards to guide development and to ensure the environment was being protected.

"We want a lot less discretion and interpretation from bureaucrats and courts, we need a lot more up-front clarity with a wide scope so that people can actually get moving with projects with greater clarity."

The proposed legislative changes would also take too long to implement, Luxon said.

"We've still got elements of massive amounts of bureaucracy, we've still got lots of uncertainty and complexity for developers and it's taking too long."

National had been working on its own RMA reform proposals, Luxon said, though he would not reveal what they entailed.

"You will see our policy as we go to the election next year."

Parties across the house weigh in

National was not alone in its criticisms of the proposed reforms.

The Greens worried the plan traded away environmental protections in favour of speeding up the consenting process, with MP Eugenie Sage telling RNZ the lack of protection for urban trees was a key concern.

"In terms of a warming climate, the bulk of our population lives in our cities; they need to be pleasant places to live, with shade, retaining stormwater, and we're seeing huge loss of trees in areas like Tāmaki Makaurau."

ACT leader David Seymour said the timeframe for the proposed legislation's implementation would not fast-track building and development in the country.

"This will put the development of housing and infrastructure backwards, while people try and work out what this new law means."

And Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa Packer said the changes did not go far enough.

"Go hearty, go the full way. You have Te Tiriti there, go and protect the rights of indigenous people, go and protect the rights of tangata whenua, that's what we need to see in some of these legislation changes," she said.

"The RMA reforms were needed but they fall shy of that once again."

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