The effect of the RMA – Simon Court

Traveling between Napier and Auckland a few weeks ago I met a machinery parts supplier who has plans to expand warehouse capacity to meet customer demand.
When I asked about plans to build, he told me there is no land available at a reasonable price in Auckland, and even if there was, the resource consents could take years.
As a result, their business is going to relocate the main distribution centre from Auckland to Christchurch where land is cheaper, and consenting is less restrictive.
But it is not just warehouses in Auckland. Every region has a story about a road, a port, or a dam held up by the RMA.
The East West Link in Auckland is still working through RMA appeals five years after the project was meant to start. The Ports of Tauranga have recently been kicked out of the fast-track consenting process by the Environment Minister David Parker who told them that more people might want to object, so go to court and try your luck there.
Infrastructure providers spend almost $1.3 billion every year on consenting. That’s just for the consents, without building anything. For the average smaller project, like fixing a dangerous road, consenting costs account for almost 16 per cent of the total budget.
And the problem is getting worse: The cost of consenting infrastructure has increased by 70 per cent since 2014, while authorities now take 50 per cent longer to make a decision than in 2014/15.
The length of the RMA itself has increased by 31 per cent since 2014.
It makes no sense to use the same law that protects Fiordland’s natural wonders to decide whether a paddock in Henderson can become a subdivision. It is a burdensome and costly piece of legislation that makes consenting a nightmare and has led to infrastructure that is outdated and not fit for purpose.
Fundamental changes to our planning rules are long overdue.
The 900-page RMA is the single biggest obstacle to building the infrastructure for a better New Zealand.
Last year in 2021 I sat on the Environment Committee through hearings on the Labour Government’s RMA replacement, the Natural and Built Environments Bill. That’s the first of three new laws proposed by Minister David Parker.
The feedback from industry was it is way too complicated, has too many new terms and definitions that will take years to litigate, and conflicting objectives which will make it even harder for developers to navigate.
ACT believes New Zealand needs to build its way out of the cost of living crisis, but in order to do that we need to scrap the Resource Management Act (RMA) and replace it with a fit-for purpose set of environmental and urban development laws.
The Government’s reforms to the RMA repeat many of the mistakes of the past. They are not clear about who has the right to do what on their land and who has the right to object. That means projects will still be held up by years of hearings, appeals, consultants’ reports, and iwi consultations.
ACT’s replacement for the RMA would make it much easier to get building. We would: ·
• Restrict the right to object to neighbours who are directly affected by the project
• Allow neighbourhoods to vote to exempt themselves from some planning rules
• Create a new Planning Tribunal to determine compensation for affected neighbours who hold out from negotiations to loosen planning rules
• Reduce the need for consents when infrastructure projects use a Code of Practice to manage environmental effects, saving billions of dollars and reducing years of delay.
This would work alongside ACT’s policy to incentivise and resource councils to provide infrastructure for new homes by sharing half of the GST levied on new housing construction in their regions with them.
Our economic potential will only be realised by reducing government interference in our lives. ACT would enable New Zealanders to build and develop without being bound by the
shackles of bureaucracy.

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