Listening to the radio today I heard an academic opine that the Act is now so unwieldy and so far removed from original intent that it needs to be cast aside completely and a new blueprint drawn up of how development in the 21st Century is best managed. From my own experience of the RMA I couldn’t agree more.
This is what Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith has to say about the reform process.
“The Resource Management Act has produced over 80,000 pages of plans and rules across New Zealand’s 78 councils. This 10-metre mountain of red tape is holding back the development of new houses and jobs, and it is not performing well enough in managing key resources like freshwater,” Dr Smith says.
“The Government is planning the most significant overhaul of the Act since its inception 25 years ago. We want to modernise the purpose to make it more practical and relevant, standardise council plans and simplify the process for gaining consents.”
Dr Smith today also released an independent report by Motu Economic and Public Policy Research – commissioned by the Treasury and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment – into the impacts of planning rules, regulations, uncertainty and delay in residential property development.
The report concludes that the RMA is adding an extra $30,000 to the cost of an apartment, an extra $15,000 to the cost of a home, and that it is reducing the capacity of housing development by 22 per cent.
“This report is consistent with the conclusions of the Productivity Commission and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in highlighting the high administrative burden of our system of environmental regulations, but also adds new information by estimating the actual cost of its flaws. It indicates that over the last decade, the RMA has added $30 billion to the cost of building and reduced new housing stock by 40,000 homes,” Dr Smith says.
Dr Smith also cited practical examples in his speech of where the RMA had wasted health and education funding, and where councils were using the RMA to unnecessarily interfere in people’s lives. (my emphasis)
In response to Dr Smith’s statement Democracy Action, formed to fight the mana whenua provisions in the PAUP, has put out the following press release:
RMA reform agenda outlined Ratepayer group Democracy Action is welcoming Nick Smith’s signalling that the Mana Whenua provisions in Auckland Council’s Unitary Plan are a step too far and an example of RMA madness.
Democracy Action Chairman, Lee Short, says:
“Our group has been highlighting the madness of requiring expensive ‘cultural impact assessments’ and resource consent conditions based on Maori spirituality and cultural preferences. Sir Bob Jones’ high profile example illustrates it, but many Aucklander’s don’t know that the Mana Whenua provisions affect approximately 18,000 properties."
“Dr Smith needs to ensure that councils applying the Resource Management Act follow the constitutional maxim of a secular state. The Act should be protecting historical significance and the environment, not unsubstantiated claims that affect personal property rights"
“These reforms will be pragmatic and moderate. We want to reduce the mountain of plans and rules that make the RMA a barrier to new housing and jobs, but retain the core environmental controls that ensure we keep New Zealand special and such a great place to live.”
They should not be ‘pragmatic and moderate’ they should be wholesale and sweeping. It is also true that when a government promises to ‘reduce the mountains of plans and rules’ they invariably create more.
Government should go back to the drawing board, get back to basics and return to the underlying principle that a man’s home is his castle… and no-one else’s.