The Government’s reform of the resource management system is continuing to progress apace. The ‘first cab off the rank’ is an Exposure Draft of the Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA) – the core piece of legislation to replace the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA).

We are expecting the Exposure Draft to be introduced to the House in June 2021. The exact date this will happen, and when the Select Committee process will commence, is yet to be confirmed. We will share details as soon as we have further information.

A high-level overview of the key differences between the RMA and the proposed NBA (and Spatial Planning and Climate Change Adaptation Acts) is available on the Ministry for the Environment’s website.

Our understanding is that the Exposure Draft will include drafting of some, but not all, of the key provisions of Part 2 of the new NBA. We understand that the Exposure Draft is likely to set out:

  • The purpose of the NBA, including a Te Tiriti o Waitangi clause and supporting provisions
  • Implementation principles
  • National Planning Framework (i.e. national direction) (some key clauses, but not all)
  • Natural and Built Environment Plans (some key clauses, but not all)

It is possible that there may be some variation to the list above once the final Exposure Draft is introduced to the House.

We also understand that the Exposure Draft will be accompanied by explanatory materials, that will include further information on the wider reform package.

Taituarā (and LGNZ) will not have any early visibility of the Exposure Draft, so we will provide a comprehensive overview of what is contained in it, and analysis of what the implications of its contents are for local government, soon after it has been introduced to the House.

Consultation on the Exposure Draft

The Government’s primary mechanism for engaging with local government on the Exposure Draft will be via a special Select Committee process, following its introduction to the House.

With support from the Resource Management Reform Reference Group we are in the process of convening, and our wider membership, Taituarā will be preparing a submission on the Exposure Draft. We will also share our thinking and analysis to assist your council with preparing its submission.

We have had questions from some councils about whether submitting on the Exposure Draft is important, or worth councils’ time and effort. Although the timeframe for making a submission is likely to be tight, making a submission is important for several reasons. Submitting provides an opportunity to flag in advance the issues that your council anticipates in terms of transitioning to and implementing the new system. It’s an opportunity for your council to flag the support and arrangements that will be needed to support the transition – something that government officials will be actively working on over the coming months. Engaging with the content of the Exposure Draft will help your council to begin anticipating and thinking about the changes that can be expected, and how to prepare for these.

Making a submission will also help to ensure that the overarching policy settings will work at a local and regional level. Local government is going to be critical to the success of the reform programme, so flagging issues with any of the proposed policy settings early is important.

Gearing up to engage in the consultation process

In anticipation of the consultation processes that are fast approaching, and the significant change and transition that is to come, we encourage you to think about pulling together a group of staff working across a range of functions relevant to resource management to feed into your council’s thinking on the Exposure Draft, and the wider reform package.

It will be helpful to have perspectives from staff involved in planning, consenting, policy, hearings, infrastructure planning and delivery, engagement with mana whenua and community engagement, to name but a few.

If you have questions about this please contact Grace Hall, Senior Policy Advisor, Sector Improvement.