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First Draft of RMA

Natural and Built Environmental Act proposes to install regional planning committees

Released as an ‘exposure draft’ in June, one of the Natural and Built Environments Act’s main changes is the proposal to install planning committees in each region, which will consider recommendations made by an independent hearings panel (IHP) and set certain environmental limits for each region.

The Science Media Centre said the exposure draft discusses mandatory limits for a ‘minimum or a maximum amount of harm’ that can be caused to the environment in each region.

Landcare Research environmental social researcher Dr Nicholas Kirk said the draft promises a system in which any resource use must promote outcomes that benefit the environment, adding that it “could slow down decisions regarding activities that have the potential to impact the environment”.

Massey University Associate Professor Caroline Miller said the NBA links environmental outcomes with housing provision for the first time, with decisions affecting the environment required to address nine specific topics including: outstanding natural landscapes, natural hazard and climate change issues, housing supply and infrastructure services, three waters reforms, freshwater allocation including addressing Māori rights and interests, biodiversity, housing and social infrastructure.

With regards to regional planning committees, Miller noted that committees will hold IHPs when decisions about consent come up. She cautioned that, “in areas with high growth in particular, [the plans] will be bulky and complex documents”.

Federated Farmers’ Karen Williams told Farmers Weekly her organisation was worried that new rules such as the requirement for councils to promote afforestation will “further strangle” farming interests.

Local Government NZ said a key issue will be how to consolidate more than 100 plans into 14 regional plans without eroding the democratic right of communities to have a say in how their district develops.

Submissions on the NBA draft closed in August 2021. The second draft is expected in 2022.


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