The ACT Party has put forward a policy to replace the Resource Management Act by separating urban development from environmental protection.
The proposal would focus on property rights and the principle that changes should be allowed unless they directly affect others' property economically or physically.
It would rely on private negotiations and the market to resolve conflicts between property owners and with the environment, with court cases requiring property owners to show how changes would affect their property. Regulations would be a "last resort".
- A new Urban Development law would have development based on local plans, with limits set in line with the Auckland Mixed Housing Zone, with councils not permitted to "unduly restrict types of activity", and small-scale commercial activity permitted by default in all zones.
- Property owners on a street can organise and vote to change zoning rules, with those voting against receiving compensation.
- Property owners could separately negotiate with affected neighbours for an exemption to zoning rules.
- A planning tribunal would be set up to settle disputes when negotiations break down, and determine compensation.
- Councils would be encouraged to offer free street parking permits for residents for "a reasonable period", such as up to 10 years.
- Councils could require property owners who get permission to go outside planning limits to contribute to infrastructure development. The first developer in an area could also recoup investment from future developers that use the improvements.
- The previously announced policy of sharing half of GST from new builds with local councils would aim to incentivise councils to allow development.
- Investors would be able to put funding towards infrastructure through "special purpose vehicles" (SPV), with councils banned from bailing them out.
- The Local Government Funding Agency would be funded by the government to advise councils and community organisations on structuring SPVs and managing projects.
- The Infrastructure Commission would set 30-year agreements with councils with measurable goals for infrastructure delivery, with oversight from a Parliamentary Infrastructure Auditor.
- Tolls would be introduced for more existing roads, with charges increasing during high traffic, as an alternative to fuel tax which would be phased out.
- A new Crown organisation would be set up to maintain and develop highways - funded solely by user charges and the ability to issue bonds.
- KiwiRail would be required to return a dividend, and offer access to the rail network on reasonable commercial terms, and also be able to issue bonds.
- Under a new Environmental Protection law, only the most complex and high-risk activities would require a resource consent, relying instead on codes and rules like the Building Code. The focus would be on delivering infrastructure, not obtaining consents.
- Farmers would be free to use water as they see fit so long as they remain within specified environmental limits based on a scientific assessment of the waterway.
- Water drawing would be managed under a "sensible" pricing system. Building private water storage would be a permitted activity which would exempt landowners from the pricing regime.
- The new law would deal separately with freshwater and other discharges into the environment.
- Freshwater and groundwater discharge permits could be traded
- A fund would be set up to allow councils to enter covenants with landowners, who would retain ownership but be responsible for stock exclusion and pest management with support from the fund.
- Land pollution will be left for landowners to deal with unless it threatens to impede a neighbour's use of their property. Polluted land would not be able to be abandoned by the owner without restoration. This would largely rely on neighbours suing their neighbours where "peaceable enjoyment of the land is put in jeopardy by their neighbours' actions".
- High-risk activities like mining would require contributions to a trust for restoring the property afterwards.