The Government has welcomed the most comprehensive review of New Zealand’s resource management system since the Resource Management Act (RMA) was passed in 1991.

The report, New Directions for Resource Management in New Zealand, was commissioned by Environment Minister David Parker and prepared by an independent review panel led by retired Court of Appeal Judge Tony Randerson QC after extensive consultation.

The panel received a range of submissions, engaged widely and was supported by reference groups within natural and rural, built and urban, and te ao Maori, as well as a range of working groups from within central government.

Among its recommendations is the replacement of the existing RMA by two separate pieces of legislation; a Natural and Built Environments Act and a Strategic Planning Act.

Minister for the Environment, David Parker said a review of the resource management system was long overdue.

“The RMA has doubled in size from its original length. It has become too costly, takes too long, and has not adequately protected the environment,” he said.

“There are significant pressures on both the natural and built environments that need to be addressed urgently. Urban areas are struggling to keep pace with population growth and the need for affordable housing. Water quality is deteriorating, biodiversity is diminishing and there is an urgent need to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to climate change.

“The Panel has designed tomorrow’s resource management system to deliver better outcomes for the environment, people and the economy,” he said.

The Government had already made changes to the resource management system in the current three year term to address issues that could not wait for the comprehensive review, released today.

“It is for the next Government to consider the report, and decide which aspects to adopt and decide whether to implement it in whole or in part.”

However, David Parker said he expected political parties would develop their policies for the upcoming general election campaign in light of the report’s findings.

The review panel said the proposed new Natural and Built Environments Act (NBEA), taking a substantially different approach from the RMA, would focus on enhancing the quality of the environment, housing and achieving positive outcomes to support the wellbeing of present and future generations.

The proposed Strategic Planning Act would embed integrated spatial planning across all regions of New Zealand. It would set long term strategic goals and help integrate legislative functions across the resource management system including the proposed NBEA, the Local Government Act, the Land Transport Management Act and the Climate Change Response Act. This will allow a broad range of matters to be reconciled to ensure better future planning, including for infrastructure and housing.

It recommends greater use of national direction by the Environment Minister and a more streamlined process for council plan-making and a more efficient resource consent process.

It also proposes a new separate law to address issues related to climate change adaptation and the managed retreat from areas threatened with inundation.

The Panel’s view was that any future resource management system should give effect to the principles of Te Tiriti and provide a clearer role for Maori in decision-making.

The critical sections of the proposed new Act have been drafted by the panel and are included in the report.