Will Nick Smith slash and burn the RMA? Or will it be as effective as his housing efforts?

Well, all the talk is positive on Day One…

Environment Minister Nick Smith is planning “the most significant overhaul” to the Resource Management Act (RMA) since its introduction 25 years ago.

The wide-ranging changes were outlined during a speech in Nelson [ last night ], in which Dr Smith said the enormous amount of red tape was delaying the development of new houses, jobs and doesn’t manage resources such as freshwater well.

The RMA governs the use of water, land, air and coast and protects heritage, native plants and animals.

“The Act is not working for New Zealand or New Zealanders. It is making housing too expensive. It is hampering job and export growth. It is stymying much-needed infrastructure,” he says.

“Tinkering with the RMA won’t do. The Act has some fundamental design flaws that require substantial overhaul.”

The Act has become a straight jacket on the economy.  Smith is right in as much that it is too big to fix.  It needs to be started again.  

The Government hopes to have the re-worked Bill before Parliament and through the full select committee process this year. But Dr Smith says there is a “power of work” to get through before that point including with officials, support parties and Cabinet committees to finalise and draft the Bill.

Dr Smith also released an independent report by Motu Economic and Public Policy Research commissioned by Treasury and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment into the impact of planning rules and delays into the residential property market.

The report says the RMA is adding $30,000 to the cost of an apartment, $15,000 to the cost of a home and reducing the capacity of housing development by 22 percent.
Dr Smith believes the report shows the “high administrative burden of our system of environmental regulations”.

“It indicates that over the last decade, the RMA has added $30 billion to the cost of building and reduced housing stock by 40,000 homes.”

Will there be enough support to get this new bill through?

United Future and the Maori Party both refused to support the changes to the Bill during the last parliamentary term because of their concerns the proposals would have on the environment. Withdrawing their support meant the Bill could not get enough votes.

Yesterday, United Future leader Peter Dunne urged the Government not to pass the legislation using just ACT’s vote.

He said doing so would “send the wrong signals” and changes to the legislation would be a “real test” for the Government on its environmental protection credentials.

It will be interesting to see the select committee work on this bill, and whether the other parties are genuinely interested in solving the problems of the current RMA bill, or if they are just going to try and sabotage it for the sake of being opposed to the idea that it might get a snail crushed somewhere that won’t result in a huge fine or jail term.

One thing is for sure:  the Green Taliban will have a big job on their hands during 2015 to convince the electorate that the housing/building cost dimension of the RMA reform will be the Trojan Horse that will let the National Government drill for oil and dig up gold wherever they please.

If it is up to the Luddites we will all spend tens and hundred of thousands more to build a home or farm building, just to prevent the theoretical possibility that it might hurt a skink or crush a tree.

And wait for the Maori Party to try to insert cultural clauses that will legislate the need for all RMA work to pass a Maori Statutory Board that will decide to what degree it impacts on their culture and belief system.

Not to mention the lawyers and their vested interests.

Old Nick appears to have picked up on specific sentiment and has listened to what the issues are.

But will Local Government like it? Will they cooperate or will the usual mechanisms clunk into gear and attempt to water down the reforms into something meaningless?

Only time will tell. But it’s a step in the right direction if its implemented as its outlined today. Good news, but it’s early days yet so no time to get comfortable…

Nick Smith has a mammoth of a task ahead of him.   Based on his track record, I don’t think he’s going to be able to bring this one in without either ending up in yet another scandal, or the new bill will be neutered and effectively the same or worse than we have today.

Mark my words.


– 3 News

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.