Judith Collins on the campaign trail

The way Judith Collins tells it, National’s  Resouce Management Act policy is simple; the Act will go and what will follow will make development simple.

But in reality – and even within National — everyone knows it is nowhere near as easy as that.

National is proposing that the current Act be split in two; into an urban planning act and an environment act.

But Environment Minister David Parker last night said it was impossible to separate the two.

“You can not put a ring around an urban area and say there are no environmental issues,” he said.

“There are issues around water quality in urban areas for a start.”

Collins’ proposal picks up on an early suggestion by then-Environment Minister, Nick Smith, back in 2015 when talking about replacing the RMA began.

Initially he proposed the kind of split she is now talking about.

But he then commissioned the Productivity Commission to review the Act and in early 2017 they came back with a more complex proposal; that not only the Act be replaced but that the Local Government and Transport Acts be reviewed alongside it.

At the same time a group of Auckland business organisations, the Property Council, Infrastructure New Zealand and the Employers and Manufacturers’ Association began working with the Environmental Defence Society to being drafting replacement legislation.


National’s discussion document on the RMA endorsed some of the work of the Environmental Defence Society and the group with their proposals to reform the RMA.

Fundamentally National would replace existing council planning processes with two new processes;  a process for creating and reviewing plans that resembled the Auckland Unitary Plan making process, and a process for plan changes involving a single-stage hybrid decision-making panel.

National would require councils to work together and with iwi and hapū to create a combined regional plan

The discussion document also proposes that water allocation be achieved by creating a water market with tradable rights. Maori would almost certainly oppose that.

The EDS work fed into a review by retired Appeal Court Judge, Tony Randerson, who reported in July this year with a proposal for two acts to replace the RMA.

One would be a Natural and Built Environments Act which contrasts with Collins’ proposal since it combines the two rather than splitting them and the other would be a Strategic Planning Act which follows on from some of the work of the Productivity Commission.

Where National and Randerson would be likely to differ is over Randerson’s proposal that that over-riding everything should be the inclusion of a requirement that the Natural and Built Environments Act “give effect to the principles of Te Tiriti of Waitangi.”

And the Strategic Planning Act would pick up on the productivity Commisisopn’s proposals that local government and transport legislation be connected to the planning legislation.

“It’s designed to integrate the planning legislation, which would be under the Natural and Built Environments Act and other legislation such as the Local Government Act, the Land Transport Legislation and the Climate Change Response Act,” Randerson said in July when his review was unveiled.

However, National’s RMA spokesperson, Scott Simpson, told POLITIK last night that the party had yet to develop its policy on this and on the Randerson report as a whole.

Simpson’s statement acknowledges the complexity of fundamental redrafting what is one of New Zealand’s most complex pieces of legislation.

But Collins has taken to reciting National’s promise to repeal it as a solution to a host of problems.

It was listed in the party’s package at the weekend to revive the racing industry.

And on the campaign trail, it has been Collin’s stock standard answer when asked about housing shortages or house prices.

And yesterday she unveiled a short term solution which would effectively remove any appeal rights against land rezoned for housing and would require Councils to zone sufficient land for housing to account for 30 years of growth.

We will repeal the RMA in our first term,” she said.

“But faster action is now needed.

“National will act quickly in government so we can put the measures in place that we want before completing work on the RMA replacement and will implement the same approach that we took in Christchurch.

We will pass emergency legislation in the first 100 days that requires councils to zone thirty years of growth.

“We will suspend the appeals process to allow councils to fast track district plans, and we will streamline the resource consenting process to allow people to build houses faster.”

But though the parties differ on the details of the legislation — and some of those differences are likely to be substantial, what is clear is that by the end of the next Parliament, regardless of who is in power we are likely to have new resource management and planning legislation.