The country’s local bodies are proposing a radical reform of the country’s planning and environment laws.

In short they are calling for either reducing the authority of the resource Management Act or scrapping it altogether.

In a so-called “Blue Skies” document released yesterday Local Government New Zealand offers two stages of reforms.

The second stage proposed scrapping the Resource Management Act, the Land Transport Act and the Local Government Act and their replacement by two new pieces of legislation.

The Councils say the current program of RMA reforms is encouraging and moving in a positive direction. 

But the Councils believe even the current reforms may not be enough.

So they are proposing three options:

  • Blending the land use, infrastructure planning and funding components of the Local Government Act, the RMA and Land Transport Management Act into a single Planning Act and creating a separate Environment Act. 
  • Or – Retaining the three acts but installing overarching planning legislation that  sets the regional strategic direction and the high-level parameters within which the acts are to
  • operate.
  • Or – Changing financial signals to promote sustainable decision making that

Integrates economic and environmental outcomes. 

Because the last option could require substantial finance, it is the least likely to be agreed to. 

But the other two options slot neatly into the current review of the three acts by the Productivity Commission. 

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Local Government New Zealand President Lawrence Yule said Mr Yule said a “blue skies review” of New Zealand’s resource management system highlighted the question of whether, after 25 years and repeated experiments and amendments, the Resource Management Act was still fit for purpose.

 “While we welcome the recently announced changes to the RMA, it is time for some blue skies thinking about what a fit for purpose resource management regime could look like,” said Mr Yule. 

“The timing of the LGNZ think piece is propitious, landing as it has in the middle of a good deal of discussion on these issues – and we look forward to a significant response to the questions it poses.” 

But Local Government New Zealand have not made their proposals out of the blue. 

There has been a growing consensus among some key groups like Infrastructure New Zealand and the Auckland Employers and Manufacturers’ Association that the relatively modest reforms proposed by Environment Minister, Nick Smith, in the RMA bill currently lined up to go to the Local Government and Environment Committee in March are not enough. 

Both bodies have suggested splitting the RMA’s planning and environmental protection functions might be a solution. 

The decision by the Government to refer the three acts to the Productivity Commission has been widely seen as an invitation to the Commission to propose radical solutions. 

Finance Minister Bill English told POLITIK that he would not rule out a complete restructuring of the three pieces of legislation. 

So though the Bill to change the RMA is going through the process snow it is increasingly looking simply like a holding operation waiting till the real reforms come out of the Productivity Commission?