The Government’s plan to modernise the Resource Management Act appeared yesterday to be have hit the wall.

Meetings at Parliament next week to sign off revisions to the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill — which amends the RMA  —have had to be cancelled.

Labour says that’s because the Cabinet cannot agree on what the changes should be.

The meetings were additional ones for the Local Government and Environment Committee which was to have considered an officials’ report on changes to the original RLA Bill.

This is a highly contentious piece of legislation which seeks to implement iwi participation agreements and strips back the notification and appeal process for resource consents.

It also establishes new “collaborative planning processes” but the Committee has heard a lengthy parade of objections to various bits of the Bill.

It was promoted with much fanfare in the first place last November by Environment Minister Nick Smith who said the 180 page Bill was  about reducing the bureaucracy “that gets in the way of creating jobs, building houses, and good environmental management.”

“ It provides for greater national consistency, more responsive planning, simplified consenting and better alignment with other laws,” he said.

Labour’s Environment spokesperson, David Parker, who is a member of the Committee says the cancellation of the meetings is because  the Government does not know how to proceed.

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“Two special days of meetings scheduled for next week were cancelled yesterday, because cabinet has yet to make up its mind,” he said.

Committee chair, Scott Simpson,  says the meetings were cancelled because the officials’ report on the changes being made to the Bill is not ready.

He said he did not know why the report wasn’t ready but other sources say it is because Cabinet has delayed signing off the changes.

Simpson told POLITIK that because the official’s report was likely to be 300 pages or so, the Committee would need time to deliberate on it.

Both the size of the report and the delay suggest that the Bill has undergone a substantial rewrite.

Parker says “The latest bungled amendments to the RMA by National are so flawed that it has been stuck with no progress since December last year!

“In Labour’s view, it is time for National to admit their latest RMA Bill does not help, and in fact makes things worse, and should be dumped,“  he says.

It is not the only legislation in front of this Committee on which the Cabinet seems to be having second thoughts.

The Local Government Amendment Bill has also gone back to the Cabinet for a redraft.

But the Government’s stance on the RMA appears to be becoming more confused.

The reaction of acting Environment Minister, Maggie Barry, to the EDS/EMA report this week evaluating the environmental outcomes of the RMA and proposals for a way ahead (which included a call for a Royal Commission)seemed to ignore the trouble the Bill is in at the Select Committee.

She rejected the substance of the EDS/EMA report saying “We have heard for years that the RMA itself is fine, but the implementation is the problem.

“We do not accept that, and that is why this Government embarked upon a two-phase reform programme in 2008 to amend the legislation and improve the operation of the RMA.”

“The second phase of the Government’s reform programme, the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill, is currently before a Select Committee.”

Simpson would not commit yesterday to having the Bill ready to report back to Parliament on November 7 as is currently planned.

After that, there are only six weeks of Parliamentary business left before the end of the year.

Simpson’s Committee looks like it may be very busy over the next few weeks – that is, if the Cabinet can agree on a way forward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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