2019 RMA Reforms

In an effort to produce a more industrious, inclusive and sustainable economy the government has proposed a number of reforms to the resource management system to take effect from 2019.

Its aim is to make the bill less complex, more understandable and to encourage the public to participate in the process. The changes will occur in two stages, with the first stage being a narrowly focused amendment to reverse some of the controversial changes made by the previous government in 2017 to reduce complexity, increase certainty and introduce a number of relatively simple changes to improve consenting, freshwater management, enforcement and Environment Court operations. Stage two will be a more comprehensive review of the current resource management system building on current work within this space, including areas such as urban development, climate change, freshwater management, urban tree protection, plan making timelines and reducing complexity.

The Stage One changes include:

  1. Remove preclusions on public notification and appeals for residential activities and subdivisions.

  2. Reinstate the presumption that subdivision requires resource consent unless expressly permitted.

  3. Reinstate the option for councils to require financial contributions to support development which was going to be repealed in 2022.

  4. Enable applicants to suspend the processing of their non-notified consents for up to 20 working days and enable consent authority to return the application if the applicant suspension extends beyond the 20 working days.

  5. Increase the time frame for lodging retrospective emergency works applications to 60 working days.

  6. Enable persons who are dissatisfied with a council’s notification decision to challenge this in the Environment Court rather than the judicial review process in the High Court and enable the Environment Court to make declarations in respect of these decisions including being able to set aside any part of the notification decision or direct a council to reconsider its notification decision.

  7. Clarify the legal status of deemed permitted marginal or temporary activities and deemed permitted boundary activities confirming they are lawfully established ways of breaching a plan rule.

  8. Enable the review of conditions of multiple resource consents concurrently e.g. on a catchment wide basis, as soon as a relevant regional rule is operative, to manage water quantity and quality.

  9. Strengthen tools for compliance, monitoring and enforcement including increasing maximum infringement fees and extend the statutory limitation for filing charges for various prosecutions.

  10. Enable the Environmental Protection Authority to take enforcement action.

It is anticipated the Stage One bill will be introduced to the House in December 2018, with implementation by mid-2019. The Stage Two review will commence in 2019.