RMA ‘broken’, not fit for purpose for local government

Dave Cull, president of Local Government New Zealand and mayor of Dunedin, says that the Resource Management Act is broken, and is effectively saying that the  is not fit for purpose, or at least not fit for local governments who want to progress housing developments.

Stuff: Don’t leave smaller councils with the claw hammer

On one hand we have the Urban Development Authority (UDA), the agency that will be responsible for delivering on the Government’s ambitious KiwiBuild programme.

To build at scale, the Government is looking to give the UDA the power of compulsory acquisition to assemble large parcels of land and the ability to shortcut the onerous public consultation processes required under the Resource Management Act (RMA).

On the other hand we have non-UDA projects, which still have to go through the RMA process.

This will give Government favoured projects a major time and cost advantage.

Make no mistake, the UDA is a good thing. The answer to the housing crisis is to remove the hurdles that have prevented us from building homes.  Local Government NZ has worked closely with Government on the UDA policy to ensure it works with local government structures as seamlessly as possible.

But there is a risk that, if we stop reforms with the UDA, we could be entrenching the housing problem, not fixing it.

Here’s why: by seeking a series of RMA carve-outs for the UDA, the Government is effectively admitting that our planning system is broken, particularly when it comes to urban development.

It is an acknowledgment that the RMA is too consultative and encourages a tragedy of the anti-commons. This is where everyone gets a say in a development, not just affected parties, and as a result many worthwhile projects never get off the ground.

The RMA’s consultation requirements also vastly complicate the already fiendishly difficult matter of assembling land for urban development.

Ironically Cull’s Dunedin City Council has just notified decisions on it’s Second Generation Plan (2GP) for Dunedin, and appeals have been lodged against some decisions.

One highlights the power of everyone being able to have a say. This appeal – ENV-2018-CHC-285 – The Preservation Coalition Trust  – wants Rural Residential rezoning deleted from the 2GP if ‘any portion visible’ from most prominent roads on the Peninisula, West Harbour, North East Valley and north to Waitati. That effectively means just about all land north and east of Dunedin.

Unfortunately, early signs suggest the zeal for building reform seems to be limited to the UDA, which will focus on a handful of really big projects, the kind that only the likes of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton or Tauranga could reasonably take on.

The rest of New Zealand will have to struggle on with the RMA – a claw hammer with a cracked handle and wobbly head.

Including Cull’s Dunedin City.

If we want to tackle housing affordability across the whole country, and not just in our big cities, we need to reform our national planning legislation to enable more residential building to take place, whether it be in Gisborne or Gore.

In short, we want to see everyone equipped with gas framing nailers.  That’s the kind of exciting contest that we want  – an even playing field that results in more houses, where we all end up winning.

He could start by addressing this in his home town, but it’s probably far too late with the advanced 2GP process.

Does he want to put that aside and start again? Or is he only advocating for elsewhere?




  1. Corky

     /  15th January 2019

    ”It is an acknowledgment that the RMA is too consultative and encourages a tragedy of the anti-commons. This is where everyone gets a say in a development, not just affected parties, and as a result many worthwhile projects never get off the ground.”

    In other words it boils down to anti private property rights. Been involved in that process. Consulting with Maori is one of the first major impediments many developments encounter.

    • Duker

       /  15th January 2019

      Its not ‘property rights’ at all. fee simple doesnt mean absolute sovereignty – your little kingdom.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  15th January 2019

        Of course it’s about property rights. Absolutely directly and explicitly. Don’t kid yourself.

        • Duker

           /  15th January 2019

          As I said , title isnt a license to improve or change the property as you wish. Never has been. Councils and other utilities can run pipes under or power lines over
          Applies in a lot of other things
          Intellectual property is only a license. vehicle title the same

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  15th January 2019

            No property rights => stagnation and poverty.

            RMA is remorselessly heading that way. Venice could never be built under it. Nor can affordable housing. If the Greens get their way there will be no farming or industry either.

            Once the rule was that everything that is not forbidden was allowed. Now everything is forbidden except what is permitted and getting permitted costs money and time even if successful. The Lefty morons have strangled themselves along with everyone else but most of them are too thick and ignorant to realise it yet.

            • Conspiratoor

               /  15th January 2019

              Dont sweat it al. Chinese land bankers, the house of saud and russian oligarchs have the measure of the rma

            • PartisanZ

               /  15th January 2019

              Which is as much as to say: Chinese land-bankers, the House of Saud and Russian Oligarchs have the measure of our government … be they Rightie Blue or Blacky Red …

            • PartisanZ

               /  15th January 2019

              … be it – our government – Rightie Blue or Blacky Red …

          • Corky

             /  15th January 2019

            If a Libertarian government ever came to power that would change. Councils would be gone, agreed upon covenants would apply.

            • PartisanZ

               /  15th January 2019

              … and neighbours would shoot at each other rather than go to RMA hearings …

  2. Duker

     /  15th January 2019

    Arent these two different things being confused her.

    Dunedin is updating its DISTRICT PLAN, with all the rigamarole that goes with it.
    The Urban Housing Authority will be building houses , via planning and building consents on the EXISTING district plans.

    To me it sounds like Cull is clueless to begin with, as its his council – to be sure hes only nominally in charge and his bureaucrats lord it over him- who creates headaches for building houses within the existing planning rules. let alone the nonsense some barely or unqualified council officers who issue building consents ( not the planning type) who seem to think they know better than highly qualified experts. I have seen this time and time again.

    Its time for each Council to have its own Ombudsman to investigate council officers – with full acess to all files and council manuals-bad practice – and to report to the Council itself NOT the chief executive

  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  15th January 2019

    I’ve been saying this for over a decade as has anyone else who actually knows something about it. But nothing gets done because too many people rely on nothing getting done to change it now.

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