Taituarā has recently submitted on the exposure draft of the Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA). The NBA will be the main replacement of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA). The exposure draft sets out some, but not all the clauses that will be contained in the full Bill.

You can read a copy of our submission here.

We broadly support the direction of travel that is signalled in the exposure draft. We’ve supported the shift to a system based on achieving outcomes for the benefit of the environment, as opposed to managing adverse effects. We agree that setting out clear, specific goals around the outcomes that the system seeks to achieve in managing the natural environment and providing for urban and infrastructure development will better help to encourage the change that is needed.

We’ve also supported the Government’s proposals to provide a greater and more strategic role for mana whenua in the new system. This includes introducing a new requirement to ‘give effect to’ the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. However, we’ve encouraged the Government to continue to work closely with mana whenua on the design of the new system, and arrangements for transition and implementation. We’ve also encouraged the Government to think about how it can resource mana whenua to participate effectively in the new system, and how it can support local government to build its capability to work with mana whenua too.

However, we’re concerned that a number of the Government’s proposals will significantly reduce the opportunity for communities to have input into place-based, place-making decisions.

While we agree that place-making processes could be streamlined and made less litigious, we’re concerned that regionalising plans making may significantly curtail opportunities for constituent local authorities and their communities to meaningfully contribute to decisions about their place. We’ve encouraged the Government to continue to work closely with local government to find ways to ensure that councils can continue to contribute to place-making decisions in a meaningful way.

We’re also concerned that a number of the Government’s proposals have the potential to create a more complex system than the one we have currently.

For example, we’re concerned that the Government’s proposal to require strict adherence to environmental limits may ultimately create a system that is less enabling of development than the one we have currently. We can foresee conflicts between, for example, the requirements to comply with environmental limits related to biodiversity and to promote outcomes relating to well-functioning urban areas, housing supply and provision of infrastructure. If the Government wants to make more omelettes, it will need to be prepared to crack some eggs.

The changes that the Government is proposing will impact significantly on local government’s workforce. In our submission we’ve raised the capacity issues that the resource management sector (and particularly local government) is already facing, and the challenge it will have in delivering an entirely new system while progressing important existing planning work. We’ve encouraged the Government to consider whether a staged approach to reforming the resource management system would better enable it to deliver the change that it wants, while ensuring that the momentum being gained through existing planning work is not lost.

We’ll be continuing to work closely with central government officials over the coming months as they progress towards a full Natural and Built Environments Bill and the Spatial Planning Bill. We expect that these Bills will be introduced to the House in early 2022.

If you have any questions, please contact Grace Hall, Senior Advisor.