More Changes Ahead For The Resource Management Act

As previously signalled (refer to RMA reforms continue at pace), the Government has introduced the Resource Management (Freshwater and Other Matters) Amendment Bill to provide some 'quick win' reforms to the Resource Management Act (RMA).  The intention is to help deliver its wider policy outcomes on reducing regulation on the primary sector, to in turn improve the primary sector's profitability and boost export earnings.  As anticipated the Bill focuses on matters relevant to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM), the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater (NES-F) and the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity (NPS-IB).

The Bill proposes to:

  • Make it clear that until the NPS-FM is replaced the hierarchy of obligations set out in Te Mana o te Wai is excluded from applying to resource consent applications and decision-making processes.  It however remains applicable to regional council policy and planning processes 
  • Align the consenting pathway for coal mining with the pathway for other mining activities in the NPS-IB, NPS-FM, and the NES-F
  • Suspend the NPS-IB requirement for councils to identify new Significant Natural Areas in their district plans for three years
  • Amend stock exclusion regulations in relation to sloped land
  • Repeal intensive winter grazing permitted and restricted discretionary activity regulations and associated conditions.

Interestingly but not surprisingly given the Government's current RMA policy reform direction, the Bill also provides a new 'fast track' amendment process for national direction.  The Bill:

  • Removes the board of inquiry process but retains a Minister established process
  • Makes it easier to make simple updates to national direction
  • Reduces prescription from the process to make or amend a national direction
  • Amends evaluation report requirements as they relate to a national direction to make them more flexible and less onerous.

Our national environment and resource management team has been closely following the proposed reforms of the RMA, and its likely implications.  Please contact a member of our team if you would like to make a submission on the Resource Management (Freshwater and Other Matters) Amendment Bill, or if you would like to discuss the reforms more broadly.