National says: Repeal the R.M.A.

The National Party have announced that they will repeal the Resource Management Act, 1991 if they are elected to office, with planning spokeswoman Judith Collins saying the replacement will be “developer friendly”. Whilst no doubting that this will please traditional National supporters in the 2020 election campaign it flies straight in the face of Mr Bridges recent attempts to suggest that National under him is prepared to be environmentally responsible.

There is no doubt that the Resource Management Act is in need of reform. Virtually every party in Parliament accepts that the Act is in dire need of an overhaul. But several questions arise, which need answers to before one can proceed:

  • How many are willing to acknowledge a significant part of the problem is not actually the fault of the R.M.A. but how the Councils charged with implementing the Act do so? It is these councils who investigate resource consent applications, issue, monitor and enforce them. It is these councils that have to decide how and whether the proposed activity of Joe Blogg’s will have undue effects on neighbouring properties and the environment?
  • Can those who rail against the Resource Management Act actually point to specific provisions in the Act and explain why there is a problem with those provisions?
  • Will those same people remove, gut or otherwise alter the all important Section 5 that provides for sustainable management of our natural and physical resources, and without which the Act essentially has no heart?
  • Without repealing the Act, how many of the amendments made to it over the last nearly 30 years work as they were intended to and how many are redundant?

Is the Resource Management Act perfect? Name me a piece of legislation anywhere in the world that is “perfect”. Do we even what a “perfect” piece of legislation is? It is only ever as good as the practitioners who have to implement it – whether is planners in councils, analysts trying to make sense of the legislation – and the people who wrote it in the first place. Obviously the environmental requirements of New Zealand have changed significantly since the Act became law in 1991, but so has the world around it. With New Zealand having an ecological footprint big enough that if every nation had one the size of ours we would use up 195% of Planet Earth. In other words a whole planet Earth (current one) and 95% of Planet B – which obviously does not exist.

There are other issues that come into play as well, which would need to be acknowledged.

  • After all of this time preparing City/District/Regional plans, National Environmental Standards and so forth, how many really want to start all over again on a brand new slate?
  • How much impact would this have on our current international obligations and if there were impacts, would New Zealand still be able to uphold those obligations?
  • New Zealand’s environmental reputation – what’s left of it – could be permanently ruined at the cost of tens of thousands of jobs; billions of dollars in economic losses built on being – relatively! – clean and green.

Whomever chooses to back Mr Bridges on this better have damn good reasons for doing so because the R.M.A. is a fundamental part of New Zealand’s environmental legislative framework. And unless that supposed replacement can do the job as well or better, the entire framework is at risk of collapse.

So, remind me again, why is repealing the R.M.A. such a great idea?

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