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Mixed response to RMA reforms

Resource Management Act (RMA) reforms won’t put an end to Auckland’s housing crisis.

Thursday, November 26th 2015, 8:27PM

by Miriam Bell

After months of anticipation, the Government has introduced legislation to overhaul the RMA into Parliament.

The 180-page Resource Legislation Amendment Bill makes 40 changes across a range of relevant Acts

Environment Minister Nick Smith said the reform bill meant the RMA would support business growth and housing development while ensuring more effective environmental management.

It addresses cumbersome planning processes, simplifies the consenting process and improves the processes involved with resource management decisions, he said.

For example, national planning templates which standardise planning guidelines around the country will be introduced to eliminate the need for each Council to produce its own guidelines.

Property Institute chief executive, Ashley Church supports the reforms, but thinks the changes being proposed don't go far enough to quickly resolve the Auckland housing crisis.

Some of the proposed changes will make a big difference to existing homeowners and could significantly reduce time and costs, he said.

“But they will do little to accelerate the rate of construction of new dwellings in Auckland.”

Church would have liked a clearer lead on extent to which Councils should be required to open up new land for development and a reduction in the rules and costs associated with residential subdivisions.

He also said the adoption of some of the Labour Party’s recent ideas – in particular ,targeted rate funding to reduce the upfront costs of residential infrastructure on developers – would have been good.

However, others are more positive about the proposed legislation.

Property Council chief executive Connal Townsend said it addresses festering problems with the RMA which have hampered efforts to increase housing, create jobs and build prosperous cities.

“We are extremely pleased with the Resource Management Amendment Act and believe it is one of, if not the most, significant development on addressing the RMA’s failings in the last 20 years.”

The national templates and streamlined planning and consent provisions are exactly the sorts of measures needed to directly address Auckland’s housing crisis and regional growth, he said.

“Issues such as improved resource management have been stalled by political paralysis at great cost to communities and the country.

“It is pleasing to see a pragmatic approach by the Bill’s focus on improvements that make development more affordable, while ensuring the current high levels of environmental protection remain.”

A broader review of New Zealand’s planning system, which better aligns the Local Government Act and the Land Transform Management Act with the RMA, would make for the best possible outcome, Townsend added.

Political responses to the proposed RMA legislation were mixed – with the Maori Party supporting it, while the Green Party decried it as a win for property developers

Labour Party housing spokesperson Phil Twyford also said the RMA amendments fell a long way short of the reforms needed to fix the housing crisis, as nothing in the Bill tackled the fundamental causes.

“The way Councils regulate housing and urban development under the RMA is a root cause of New Zealand’s expensive housing.

“In Auckland, historic planning rules have choked off land supply and driven up section prices, and have stopped the city growing up and out. The Bill will not do anything to tackle those issues.”

*The Government’s Q&A on the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill can be read here.

 

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