Phil Twyford on the new Housing and Urban Development Authority

The new Housing and Urban Development Authority (HUDA) is going to have broad powers including being able to ignore existing council designations, amend or write its own by-laws and grant its own resource consent, and councils will have no veto power. “It’s going to be a tooled-up agency that can cut through the red tape” – Minister Phil Twyford.

I wouldn’t be surprised if that dismays some councils.

Also:

There will be ‘no change’ for Housing NZ tenants under the new Housing and Urban Development Authority

It is a shame that HUDA needs to be given extraordinary powers like this, other than making the Resource Management act fit for purpose.

More from and interview with Twyford on Nation yesterday:

  • Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford says the new Housing and Urban Development Authority (HUDA) will act “in partnership” with local iwi, councils and the private sector. “We’re creating a really joined-up one-stop shop that can sit alongside the council and unlock these big developments and allow us to crack into it with pace and scale.”
  • Mr Twyford said while the agency will also contain Housing New Zealand subsidiary HLC, becoming the Government’s primary provider for housing, there would be no change for HNZ tenants. “There will be no significant difference for those people. I want to reassure them that their rent, their tenancy arrangements, their houses – that’s not going to change at all.”
  • The HUDA will have broad powers, including being able to ignore existing council designations, amend or write its own by-laws and grant its own resource consent, and councils will have no veto power. “It’s going to be a tooled-up agency that can cut through the red tape,” said Mr Twyford.
  • He said land use regulation and the rules that govern development projects had been solely in the hands of councils and that was “not working”. “We have to change things, and we’re putting central government in there to work alongside councils.”
  • He said he hoped the authority will mean developments could go “from concept to building within 12 months”.
  • Mr Twyford said the HUDA will have a $100 million injection to get it started but will also have access to Kiwibuild and Housing NZ Funds, because state homes and Kiwibuild funds would be part of the projects.
  • The HUDA will also have the power of forced acquisition, where private land owners can be can be forced to sell to make way for a development – but the minister says the powers are just “in the back pocket”. “I don’t think it’s likely at all that someone’s private property or their house will be acquired for one of these projects.”
  • Mr Twyford said the cost of Kiwibuild had not been underestimated, and he would not be asking for more funds in the next budget. He said the point of the $2 billion fund was to be “recycled over and over”.
  • He said victims of the meth testing debacle would soon be compensated. “Every tenant who has come forward and has their eligibility for payment under the scheme we set up, we will get their payments [to them] before Christmas.” He said Housing New Zealand was proactively working with MSD to try and track down people eligible for compensation who haven’t yet come forward.
  • He said those who had been unfairly kicked out of homes were being prioritised on the HNZ waiting list. “People should not be living in cars. And my advice is that Housing New Zealand is doing everything it can to make sure that people who were affected in that way, that that situation is put right.”

Full interview transcript at Scoop.

Ardern: “housing for every price point, every income, every need”

In an interview on Newshub Nation Jacinda Ardern has defended Kiwibuild providing what many would see as expensive housing to people with very good incomes, and said that the Government should provide housing for just about everyone – “So for us it’s about providing housing for every price point, every income level and every need.”

That’s a remarkable statement.

Here is the whole part of the interview transcript that discussed KiwiBuild and housing.


You mention KiwiBuild — there’s been more controversy this week around the income thresholds for KiwiBuild. Have you over-promised on how affordable KiwiBuild homes actually are?

I think when you look at the context of where we’re building in the Auckland market, when you’ve got houses sitting around the million-dollar mark, and first home buyers saying that’s simply not a threshold that we can meet. What we’ve done with KiwiBuild, of course, is not about subsidising housing, but about providing more supply in the housing market where builders and developers just were not producing houses.

From memory, roughly five per cent of houses being built in that market were what you would call something adequate for a first home buyer. We’re trying to turn that around. We’re intervening in the market by building what people are looking for. When you think about that fact that, say, two teachers with five years’ experience, you know they just come under the threshold for KiwiBuild and even then those couples are struggling to find a home.

So that’s what KiwiBuild is all about. It’s rightly been popular, and I think we’ll look back on what we’re doing in the housing market and think this is something that will be a real turning point.

MBIE figures released to us early this year suggested that a first home buyer would need to earn at least $114,000 to buy a $600,000 home. The median household income is only $88,000. We’re looking at seven times the median income in order to afford a $650,000 home. That’s not considered affordable. The New Zealand initiative would say that you would need to bring that down to three times the median income to meet international affordability ratings.

Two points that I would make there. That’s the upper end of KiwiBuild, of course there are price differentials across the country, and we expect they’ll be much more affordable in different parts of the country. That’s the first point. The second point is that that demonstrates — the fact that even at 650 that’s a very big difference from the million-dollar houses that we’re seeing sold more frequently in the Auckland housing market — pointing to the unaffordability that we have right now. So we know we have an issue.

That’s the top end of what KiwiBuild is offering. There are lower price points as well for slightly smaller homes that are good starter homes and, again, they’re cheaper across the country. But it points to the problem that we have in New Zealand that that is the price point that people are having to look at in order to get into the market. We are looking at other options. We’re looking at shared equity schemes.

We are increasing the number of public and state houses available. We’ve got an agenda to build 6400 state and public houses within New Zealand as well.

So for us it’s about providing housing for every price point, every income level and every need.

Alan Johnson from the Salvation Army says KiwiBuild is one example of how Labour has become the party of middle-class welfare. What do you say to that?

I totally disagree. People still have to pay for these homes themselves. They have to muster a deposit themselves.

I think that many would argue with that. KiwiBuild has been criticised widely for months, like “Disappointment is setting in as more people realise that the scheme is really only going to benefit the rich.” – see Political Roundup: Kiwibuild is now ‘socialism for the rich’ (NZH).

The high income couple who Labour used to promote the first KiwiBuild house hand (Ardern described it as “a momentous occasion) over said it was like winning lottery – see Purchasing new KiwiBuild home ‘like winning Lotto’ (1 News).

This is just one of the things that we’re doing across housing. I’ve already mentioned state housing. We’ve brought on an extra 1200 public housing spaces. We’ve invested in housing first, which is to try and work with those who are homeless in New Zealand. We know that a home affects everything. It affects your ability to build community, to keep your kids in the same school, and so we’re looking at everyone’s income needs and everyone’s housing options to make sure that we’re providing for everyone.

But what I would say to Alan as well, is that it’s part of our psyche — the idea of home ownership and the fact that people who consider themselves to be in the middle haven’t been able to afford a home, we should want to turn that around too. I don’t apologise for that — as long as we’re also meeting the needs of other New Zealanders who might not be able to muster those deposits and that’s why we’re looking at shared equity as well.

There are almost 9000 people waiting for a state house; you mentioned state housing. 800 homeless in Auckland alone. Can you see how people would think maybe that $2 billion going to KiwiBuild could be better used elsewhere?

And again, we need to be really careful around the way that we talk about KiwiBuild. That’s, of course, a rotating fund that’s set up to ensure that we have the initial funding for the project. Of course, people are purchasing these homes, and that money goes back into the pot to rebuild additional houses. This is not a subsidy.

This is actually just the state using its large buying power and determining that there’s a gap in the market and partnering with developers to build what’s missing. It is not a subsidy scheme for buyers; it’s just plugging the gap and ensuring that we’re providing where the market has failed.

More than 296,000 people, Prime Minister, are getting an accommodation supplement because they can’t afford their housing costs. That’s 6500 more people than this time last year. Do you need to do more?

Look, absolutely. Absolutely we do. And that’s why it can’t be just about KiwiBuild. It can’t be just about state housing. It can’t be just about emergency housing places.

But one of the great issues, of course, with things like accommodation supplement – what we ultimately need to be doing is making sure that we’ve got that public housing in the first place. So that’s why we stopped the state housing sell-off under the last government. We are increasing supply. We just announced a huge amount of work that we’ll be doing in Porirua to renew and refresh 2900 state homes there. It is a huge agenda that we have.

And I hark back here to something Michael Joseph Savage first said when we first started building state houses under that Labour government. He said, ‘We don’t claim perfection, but we do claim a considerable advancement on where we have been in the past.’ And I’d say the same for us. It’s not perfect. We’ve had 12 months, but already, we’re ramping up a building programme that I think will really pay dividends and make a real difference for people who need shelter.

It was always going to take quite a bit of time to make a significant difference on housing. The National Government tried (with disappointing results) to resolve growing housing shortages and homelessness. The Labour-led Government promised a lot but struggled to show results over their first year in office.

And things aren’t going smoothly. To try to fast track KiwiBuild houses the Government has bought houses ‘off the plan’ – from developers who were already building houses.

The elephant in the room largely remains unaddressed, the Resource Management Act. Things like the constraints it puts on making land available for new housing, and the use of the RMA by NIMBYs to oppose high density housing in their neighbourhoods.

The shortage of land and the shortage of housing are major factors in pushing the prices of housing up to levels that are unaffordable for many on lower incomes who can’t save deposits and can’t afford large mortgages, even at the current low interest rates.

A typical KiwiBuild house has a price of about $650,000. That requires a deposit of at least $65,000, a substantial amount for those on low incomes. And a mortgage of $585,000 at say 4.5% (current KiwiBank rate, low deposit buyers often pay higher mortgage rates) would cost about $26,000 a year, or about $500 per week. That’s hefty enough, but if mortgage rates go up (they were more than double current rates 10-12 years ago) many people would be unable to afford to pay their mortgages.

It is proving difficult enough to build 10,000 houses a year (Labour had a target of 100,000 houses in ten years).

But suggesting that the Government should provide “housing for every price point, every income, every need” sounds like Ardern is in lala land.

ACT on housing, housing and housing

David Seymour gave his first ‘state of the nation’ speech yesterday. It doesn’t seem to have attracted a lot of media attention, with most political focus on the annual party pilgrimage to Ratana.

It is all about housing and associated issues like the Resource Management Act.

Video:

Stuff: ACT leader David Seymour calls for action on housing affordability

ACT Party leader David Seymour has told the Government to “get some guts” and stop tinkering with housing policy.

Giving his “State of the Nation” speech in Auckland on Monday, Seymour said everyone knew housing had become a problem but nothing had been done.

In the past 30 years the number of homes built per capita had halved and created an asset bubble that was a risk to New Zealand’s economy, he said.

NZ Herald: David Seymour: Kiwi politicians need to have ‘guts’ to address housing affordability

New Zealand’s politicians need to get the “guts” to introduce major reform aimed at tackling housing affordability, ACT Party leader David Seymour says.

…he said ACT would boost housing supply by making it easier to build new homes and shortening approval times.

“We can’t just tinker … we need to act,” he said.

“If ACT holds the balance of power after this year’s election, we’ll be ensuring that the government accepts the housing market is dysfunctional and reforms the fundamentals.”

Speech notes: David Seymour: State of the Nation Speech

ACT’s policy summary:


The House Price Problem

ACT believes that the cost of housing is unacceptably high. Auckland has a significant housing shortage. The price of an average house in Auckland is nearly ten times the income of an average household. Internationally, three times the median income is considered ‘affordable’. The high price of houses means mortgage payments and rents are higher. Household budgets feel the pressure.

The high cost of housing is widening the gap between people who own houses, and who don’t. People who own houses have increasing wealth as house and land values increase. People who don’t are paying more in rent and their income is not keeping pace. It is getting harder for renters to save for a deposit on their house. High rents are a cause of deprivation for low-income families.

The housing shortage is placing costs on taxpayers as well. The high cost of private housing means the Government spends more on social housing through the Income Related Rent subsidy, and funds more support in Accommodation Supplements.

The Resource Management Act:

ACT believes that the major cause of the housing shortage in our cities is the RMA. Council plans and policies under the RMA determine whether enough houses will be built.

The Act gives too much power to councils to restrict development. It requires councils to provide for environmental protection and conduct consultations, but doesn’t require them to consider property rights of owners, economic growth or provide for an adequate supply of housing.

The number of new dwellings consented nationwide each year is still well below its peak of 39,000 in 1974. The Government’s Housing Accords and Special Housing areas have been a band-aid on a broken planning system but they do not address the fact that the RMA in its current form is not fit for purpose to deal with a major housing shortage in our main urban centres.

ACT’s Housing Affordability Policy

ACT believes that the shortage of housing can be filled by private developers, when local and central government get out of the way. We would change the planning law that controls development of cities, and we would give councils the funding incentives to approve more consents. We care about the social impacts of high house prices, and believe the shortage of housing is a problem that can be solved by making our planning and building laws fit for purpose.

Take Cities Out of the Resource Management Act.

ACT would rewrite the Resource Management Act, and introduce new supply-focused urban planning legislation for cities of 100,000 people or more. Urban environments, and areas at the edges of our cities should not be regulated and protected in the same ways as undeveloped natural environments.

ACT’s urban development legislation would prioritise supplying land and infrastructure, in response to demand. We would set price thresholds above which land would be automatically released for development. It would include obligations to set out future infrastructure corridors.

We would make zoning less restrictive, with fewer levels and types of zoning. We would strengthen property rights for existing owners by limiting objection rights to people who are directly affected, rather than allowing third parties to have a say.

Share GST Revenue to Build Infrastructure.

ACT would share a portion of GST revenue collected from the construction of new housing with the local council to incentivise them to approve planning of new homes.

The shared revenue would help cover the cost of infrastructure like roads, water and sewerage which councils must build to support new development. The cost of this infrastructure currently disincentivises approval of new houses and subdivisions.

We also allow councils to use more flexible funding mechanisms for infrastructure. This could include permitting special targeted rates on new developments, to pay for the new infrastructure. Councils need both more flexibility and stronger incentives to plan for more housing.

Compulsory Insurance for New Buildings.

ACT would reduce the cost of compliance for builders, and reduce the financial risk on councils, by removing council building certification, in favour of a compulsory bond or insurance over new buildings. Requiring insurance for the replacement of the building would ensure standards are upheld while reducing the time spent on council inspections and red tape.

Replacing council building certification with compulsory insurance would incentivise insurers to find the most reliable builders and best building supplies to insure. The builders’ incentive would be to get the best premiums and service, by proving they are building high-quality homes. Insurers could sign-off on building materials that are certified overseas, where councils are reluctant to today.

This is an agenda to fundamentally reform the housing market. Our great country deserves nothing less from its politicians.

David Seymour – ACT Leader

RMA bill deal

Largely hidden behind the US election National has announced today they have reached an agreement with the Maori Party that will allow a watered down Resource Legislation Amendment Bill to pass through Parliament.

Opposition parties and David Seymour have grizzled about it.


Policy agreement reached on Resource Bill

An agreement on policy issues in the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill has been reached between National and the Māori Party, which will enable the Bill to pass its second and third readings, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“This legislation is critical to the Government’s programme of improving New Zealand’s environmental management, increasing the supply and affordability of housing and supporting economic growth. This is the most comprehensive package of reform to the Resource Management Act since its inception 25 years ago, and it is welcome news that we have the Parliamentary support to put these 40 changes into law,” Dr Smith says.

This is the second phase of the Government’s resource management reforms, and the dozen significant provisions in the Bill include:

  • National planning standards to reduce complexity and cost
  • Streamlined planning process to improve responsiveness
  • Discretion for councils to exempt an activity from consents
  • Strengthening of requirements to manage natural hazard risks
  • New 10-day consent category for minor activities
  • New requirements for council to free up land for housing
  • New provisions to enable stock exclusion from waterways
  • New provisions requiring decommissioning plans for offshore platforms
  • More generous compensation for land required for public works
  • Better alignment with other Acts like Reserves, Conservation and EEZ
  • Collaborative planning process to encourage community-led solutions
  • Improved Maori participation arrangements

“The Māori Party has strongly advocated for improved iwi participation. This has been achieved through including the Mana Whakahono ā Rohe/Iwi Participation Arrangement in the Bill. This enables iwi and councils to enter into agreements on how iwi can be involved in resource management processes so as to ensure their perspective is heard and understood. Many councils already have these agreements through Treaty settlements or good practice. The Government supports these provisions because we want iwi involved in how natural resources are managed and because formalising the process will help achieve better outcomes with less delays and costs.”

The reforms in the Bill were first proposed in 2013 but were not able to be advanced due to the Government not being able to secure sufficient Parliamentary support. A revised Bill without the controversial changes to the purpose of the Act was introduced last December, with the support of the Māori Party for first reading but subject to further discussion on significant issues such as the iwi participation arrangements.

Submissions were heard on the Bill from April to June, and the select committee received two departmental reports – one in August and the latest just last week. Opposition parties last week refused an extension of the select committee report back date beyond 7 November, so it was reported pro-forma. The Bill will be re-referred back to the select committee by the Government tomorrow.

“The select committee has a major task ahead to work through the 500-page departmental report and refine the drafting of the Bill. The Government wants to advance the legislation as quickly as possible but this is an area of law where getting the detail right is particularly important. It may be completed this year but may flow into early next year. We will also need to consult with the Māori Party on the detailed drafting when the Bill is reported back to Parliament to ensure it is consistent with the agreed policy.

“This Bill is about improved management of our environment, it is about increasing housing supply and affordability, and it is about growing the economy and jobs. There are very significant gains for the economy and the environment from these reforms to these six major laws,” Dr Smith concluded.

RMA and democracy

Dunedin City Councillors have expressed concerns about aspects of the latest proposals to reform the Resource Management Act.

Today’s ODT editorial looks at some pros and cons in Democracy not negotiable:

Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith introduced the Bill by citing widespread reports of the RMA’s “cumbersome planning processes and the time and cost of consenting”.

The proposed changes would reduce that time and cost in many cases while tightening rules around which affected parties were entitled to inclusion in a given consenting process.

The result, Dr Smith said, was an enhanced Resource Management Act improving both environmental management and economic growth.

These are goals most New Zealanders would readily support and applaud.

There is widespread acknowledgement that RMA improvements are needed – but a sound democratic process is also very important.

Councillors have said they fear environmental benchmarks will become too flexible under the proposed changes while the powers of a local body’s own district plan would be watered down.

They are also concerned the Bill will centralise power in Wellington at the expense of local bodies, but the biggest stumbling block is their concern citizens affected by a given development could be shut out of consent hearings.

Under the Bill, non-expert submitters could be cast aside.

The result, councillors fear, is residents wanting to be heard on a development they believed would affect them would not have that chance unless they possessed expert knowledge or could afford to hire someone who did.

And here lies the conundrum.

It is a conundrum. There are examples of ‘non-expert’ submitters influencing RMA decisions for what some would say are fairly trivial objections, like how a development would look from a distance.

At an Dunedin RMA hearing last week one objection was that an apartment block would increase traffic on the street – that would probably be minor, central city apartments tend to reduce the need to travel by car, especially compared to dwellers in distant suburbs were urban sprawl is likely to occur.

There will be few New Zealanders who disagree with what Dr Smith says the Bill will do: improve environmental management and economic growth.

There will be few New Zealanders who can’t bring to mind examples of infuriating, expensive and protracted RMA hearings.

But there are a few New Zealanders whose hobby seems to be frivolous RMA objections.

But there would also be few Kiwis who don’t cling steadfastly to New Zealand remaining a fair, democratic country offering access and voice to all citizens, not just those highly skilled, educated or deep-pocketed enough to have their opinions considered valid.

Hearings panels already have the power to ignore submissions they consider frivolous or vexatious.

Are further limits to submissions required?

Democracy has been consistently championed, fought for and celebrated by New Zealanders.

But not because we hold it as the cheapest or most efficient form of government.

It is neither.

Democracy is difficult and comes with a hefty price tag.

While efficiencies should be sought wherever possible, we should be wary when they come at the expense of democracy.

We should certainly do what we can to protect democracy.

But as much of a problem as eroding democratic processes is the trend for activist individuals or groups to misuse and abuse submission processes to try and impose minority ideals on the majority.

Getting the right balance won’t be easy.

Labour backing RMA bill for now

Recently National introduced a Resource Management reform bill that would leave environmental protections at the insistence of the Maori Party and Peter Dunne. Dunne was involved in writing the original Resource Management Act.

Initially two Labour spokespeople voiced some concerns, but a third has now said that Labour will support the reform bill to committee stage at least.

But what should be a positive for Labour has been laced with negativity.

Megan Woods: RMA changes must protect the environment

RMA changes must protect the environment

A Government bill to reform the RMA must not be used as a chance to tinker with its key role of protecting the environment, says Labour’s Environmental spokesperson Megan Woods.

“We will have to look at the proposed changes carefully as there are 200 pages in this Bill. We will be watching to make sure there is a decent chance for people to have their say through the select committee stage over what will clearly be a complex piece of legislation.

“The RMA is New Zealand’s core environmental protection and those protections must remain. That is our bottom line.

“Our offer to work together on sensible reforms is still on the table. This offer stands.

“We will be concerned at any changes around appeals to the Environment Court or any undermining of case law around the environment.

“We will be looking to see if the Bill elevates private property rights above wider community interests.

“This new Bill must meet these environmental bottom lines. We will be looking carefully at the Government’s intentions,” says Megan Woods.

: RMA changes skim surface for Maori participation

Protecting the environment and getting the right balance for sustainable development will be a core test of the proposed RMA changes, says Labour’s Maori Development spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta.

David Parker: Labour will back RMA changes at first reading

Labour will back changes to the Resource Management Act because it is a step in the right direction, Labour’s Environmental spokesperson David Parker says.

“We have always said we would support sensible process improvements to the RMA. We are pleased National lost the battle to undermine the core environmental protections in the Act.

“These process changes are modest and will do little to fix the causes of the housing crisis. But they will have some positive impacts around the margins.

“For that reason Labour will support this Bill to select committee.

“This legislation is no magic solution. It is an abject surrender by National because – after years of blaming the RMA for out-of-control housing prices – they know gutting the Act is not the solution.

“Labour has offered to work with Nick Smith to come up with meaningful changes but he has repeatedly refused to do so,” David Parker says

So Labour will vote for the bill to be introduced, which is positive.

But Parker chose to lace what should have been a good news story with political vitriol. So even on overdue RMA reform the impression is left of a negative Labour Party.

Parker replaced Woods as Labour’s Environmental spokesperson in Monday’s reshuffle.

Proposed RMA reforms

The National Government have wanted to make significant changes to the Resource Management Act, in part to streamline and speed up RMA applications for developments.

In particular they want to make it easier to make land for subdivisions more readily available in Auckland and other parts of New Zealand where there are housing shortages and rampant proprty inflation.

At the beginning of their third term National had two problems, United Future leader Peter Dunne and National MP Mike Sabin.

Because of their slim majority in Parliament National needed Dunne’s vote and Dunne didn’t want to budge on core environmental protections in the RMA. Then Sabin suddenly resigned, just after the election. And then National lost Sabin’s Northland electorate in a by election, cutting their majority by one.

So now National had two problems – Peter Dunne still, and also the Maori Party because National need both  their votes plus Dunne’s to pass RMA reform. And the Maori Party have also insisted on retaining the core environmental protections that are a feature of the RMA.

I think it is important, like Dunne and the Maori Party, to retain strong environmental protections in the RMA, and reform the Act’s processes to speed things up, and to standardise more across the country.

National have had to put their pragmatism hats on and have negotiated with the Maori Party to get a promise of their vote to get the RMA amendment bill at least to the committee stages.

The Goverment’s announcement Resource legislation introduced to Parliament:

The Government introduced to Parliament today its substantive Bill overhauling the Resource Management Act (RMA) to support business growth and housing development while also ensuring more effective environmental management, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith has announced.

“This Bill is 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,” Dr Smith says.

The 180-page Resource Legislation Amendment Bill comprises 40 changes contained in 235 clauses and eight schedules. It makes changes to the Resource Management Act 1991, the Reserves Act 1977, the Public Works Act 1981, the Conservation Act 1987, the Environmental Protection Authority Act 2011, and the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012.

“The Bill addresses the significant problems with the cumbersome planning processes of the Resource Management Act highlighted in recent reports by the OECD, Local Government New Zealand, the Rules Reduction Taskforce and the Productivity Commission. Standard planning templates will be introduced so we don’t have every council reinventing the wheel and having dozens of different ways of measuring the height of a building. Plan-making, which currently take six years, will be sped up and made more flexible. A new collaborative planning process will encourage different interests to work with councils on finding solutions to local resource problems,” Dr Smith says.

“The Bill simplifies the consenting process. It narrows the parties that must be consulted to those directly affected – meaning a homeowner extending a deck only has to consult the affected neighbour. Councils will have discretion to not require resource consent for minor issues. A new 10-day fast-track consent will be available for simple issues. Councils will be required to have fixed fees for standard consents so that homeowners have certainty over costs. Consents will no longer be required for activities that are already properly regulated by other Acts. These measures will reduce the number of consents required each year by thousands.

“This Bill will deliver improved environmental management. It will enable national regulations that require stock like dairy cows to be fenced out of rivers and lakes, with instant fines for breaches. It strengthens the requirements for managing natural hazards like earthquakes and sea level rise from climate change. It requires decommissioning plans for offshore oil and gas rigs. It will improve the transparency of New Zealand’s clean, green brand by ensuring consistency in council environmental reporting on issues like air and water quality.

“The Bill contains dozens of provisions that will improve the process of resource management decisions. There will be millions of dollars in savings from simpler, plain language public notices that enable the detailed information on plans and consents to be accessed on the web. The Bill recognises email communications and online filing. It also encourages early dispute resolution on cases appealed to the Environment Court.”

The introduction of this Bill has the support of the Māori Party after intensive discussions over several months. Some reform proposals, including changes to sections six and seven, are not in the Bill. The proposals consulted on publicly in 2013 on improved Māori participation in resource management have been included in response to the Māori Party’s strong advocacy. Discussions between the National and Māori Parties will continue in response to public submissions and debate as the Bill progresses through Parliament. National will also be seeking the support of other parties in Parliament, noting that all but the Greens have publicly stated that they recognise the need for reform.

“This is a moderate reform Bill that will reduce the cost and delays for homeowners and businesses, as well as improve New Zealand’s planning and environmental controls. I thank the Māori Party for their support that will enable this large and complex Bill to pass its first reading and be referred to select committee. We look forward to hearing public submissions on the detail so we can deliver on our shared objective of reducing unnecessary bureaucracy, while ensuring we have good systems to protect the environment,” Dr Smith concluded.

Related Documents

Radio NZ – Govt gets Maori Party backing for RMA amendment bill

A compromise on new resource management legislation is necessary for the government to progress a significant overhaul of the current law, the Environment Minister says.

The Maori Party has agreed to back proposed changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA) through to the select committee stage, finally giving the government the numbers to progress long-awaited legislative changes.

Afterwards, the party said it would continue to work with the government in good faith.

The Maori Party said iwi were not looking to introduce more barriers to development or planning, but wanted to be involved from the outset to avoid problems later down the track.

The party’s co-leader Marama Fox gave the example of the Whaitua project in the Wairarapa.

“The Ruamahanga River has suffered… so iwi were consulted after the fact, and then that consultation was ignored about the use of the water and the local council’s decisions about the use of that water. They now have come at great length to an agreement to clean up that river with regional council.

“But if they’d been included in the planning at the beginning we could have avoided the level of deterioration in that river right now, and the involvement of the iwi at the beginning could have ensured a better planning process going forward.”

Yesterday Peter Dunne reiterated his position:

DunneRMA

Labour response: RMA changes must protect the environment

RMA changes must protect the environment

A Government bill to reform the RMA must not be used as a chance to tinker with its key role of protecting the environment, says Labour’s Environmental spokesperson Megan Woods.

“We will have to look at the proposed changes carefully as there are 200 pages in this Bill. We will be watching to make sure there is a decent chance for people to have their say through the select committee stage over what will clearly be a complex piece of legislation.

“The RMA is New Zealand’s core environmental protection and those protections must remain. That is our bottom line.

“Our offer to work together on sensible reforms is still on the table. This offer stands.

“We will be concerned at any changes around appeals to the Environment Court or any undermining of case law around the environment.

“We will be looking to see if the Bill elevates private property rights above wider community interests.

“This new Bill must meet these environmental bottom lines. We will be looking carefully at the Government’s intentions,” says Megan Woods.

Also from Labour: RMA changes skim surface for Maori participation

Protecting the environment and getting the right balance for sustainable development will be a core test of the proposed RMA changes, says Labour’s Maori Development spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta.

Related coverage:

Green Party response: RMA changes must not risk what we hold dear

Proposed changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA) appear on first reading to be a boon for seabed miners and property developers, the Green Party said today.

The National Government today released a new Bill which proposes changes to the RMA, laws governing conservation lands, and the Exclusive Economic Zone.

“The Government has repeatedly attacked the RMA to weaken its environmental protection, reduce public participation, and fast track high impact development. The more than 200 proposed changes in the Bill need to be carefully scrutinised to ensure New Zealand’s natural environment and sustainable urban development are not compromised for short-term financial gains,” said Green Party Environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

“The Bill appears to significantly increase the Minister’s powers at the expense of local councils and to further politicise environmental decision making by having the Minister, rather than the Environmental Protection Agency, appoint hearing panels for developments in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone,” she said.

“The Bill risks having a chilling effect on councils’ ability to regulate in the community’s interest. For example, under proposed changes, councils could be reluctant to protect native plants and trees on private land as the Environment Court could require the council to purchase affected land if protections were deemed to put an ‘unfair and unreasonable burden’ on landholders.

The Greens are always going to strongly oppose the use of many natural resources.

From Interest.co.nz: The New Zealand Initiative’s Jason Krupp argues that Nick Smith should visit Montreal to see how shifting infrastructure costs can improve housing affordability

In the cut and thrust of politics it was no surprise that Environment Minister Nick Smith denounced the Labour Party’s new housing policy. After all, while it is the opposition’s job to oppose government policies, it is just as much the incumbent’s job to shoot down ideas coming from across the house.

Scoop: RMA Reform Underwhelming And a Broken Promise

“Underwhelming” sums up the initial impression of the Taxpayers’ Union to the Government’s reform legislation of the Resource Management Act, introduced this afternoon. Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, says:

“The RMA is the largest regulatory tax on innovation, growth and living standards currently on the books. Our lawyers are still trawling through the detail, but it appears that rather than the promised reform this would be better described as ‘tinkering around the edges’.”

No party’s election policies and proposals can be regarded as ‘promises’ for the simple reason that Parliament works on majority votes and not on election promises.

All a party can do is promise that if they can get sufficient votes they promise to introduce legislation. That is MMP 101, so anyone claiming that election promises have been broken when compromises have to be made to succeed in getting legislation introduced is either ignorant or deliberately overstating their criticism.

Thanks to Mefrostate for providing links for this post.

With the right approasch sensible RMA reform should be easy

One of National’s few election pledges last year was to reform the Resource Management Act to reduce roadblocks to development. This was a major issue in the this month’s by-election with National claiming a less restrictive RMA was essential to promote development in Northland.

A number of parties recognise the problems that have evolved with ridiculous application of the RMA by some councils but wish to retain the fundamental environmental protections that the Act is based on.

Labour ‘happy to look at’ sensible RMA changes:

Labour is offering to look at “sensible changes” to the Resource Management Act as the Government takes its proposed amendments back to the drawing board.

Labour’s environment spokeswoman, Megan Woods, says the Government never had broad political support for its proposed changes.

“Labour is happy to look at any sensible changes that do not water down our environmental protections,” she said.

And three parties outlined their positions to Radio NZ in Govt to ‘rip up’ RMA plans.

Labour’s environment spokesperson Megan Woods:

“We’ve said all along that we’ll look at sensible changes to the RMA.”

She said cornerstone legislation such as the RMA should never be changed without genuine consultation with all political parties in Parliament.

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox:

“We don’t want to hold up economic progress in this country. We don’t want to be seen as the ones who are stopping that from happening but, in the same breath, we will not put our environment at risk for our future generations in doing so,” she said.

“So, yes, we need economic benefit for the country and the development of some of these things but not at all costs.”

United Future leader Peter Dunne:

“I’ve always said that, while I am not in the favour of any changes to the principles of the RMA, that I think there are process changes that can be made and we should be talking about them but, to date, those talks haven’t been held.”

There’s a common theme – retain the bedrock environmental protection but sort out the processes.

As is typical Winston Peters is all over the place on the RMA and can’t be relied on:

Mr Peters said New Zealand First was seeking to work with the Government on legislation that would change the lives of those in the regions – and he said that was not the RMA.

Mr Key said…

…it was still possible some process changes could be made to the act with the support of Mr Dunne or the Maori Party or both.

The Green Party is more hardcore environment over development for example: Failings in the Resource Management Act need to be addressed:

“The RMA is supposed to balance the short term needs of landholders with long term care of our environment. Clearly, the balance has tipped in favour of landholders.

“While the public have been able to protest this particular case and have been able to halt the felling of this tree, the RMA still favours developer profits over our environment, and this battle will have to be fought again and again to safeguard what we hold most precious.

“That the legislation failed to protect this kauri is astonishing. Minister for the Environment Nick Smith is planning a further brutal attack on the RMA this year, to tip the balance further in favour of his developer mates.

Despite this National should give all parties the opportunity to have input into possible changes – especially Labour, but also the Greens.

The Resource Management Act should be given every chance of wide cross-party consensus on reform.

Dunne’s history on RMA reform

Peter Dunne’s current position on National’s intended Resource Management Act reforms was discussed yesterday with pdm saying “This opportunistic change of position by Dunne on very necessary RMA reforms epitomises all that is wrong with MMP”.

That seems to be a common view but it’s not supported by facts. In January:

In a speech in Nelson, Environment Minister Nick Smith called for a substantial overhaul of the Act, attacking it as outdated, cumbersome and slow.

United Future’s leader Peter Dunne said he was therefore very surprised by the tone of Dr Smith’s speech.

“I thought the tone would’ve been more moderate. The language is incredibly strident. It looks as if it could have come out of the Act Party’s press office in terms of wholesale attack on the RMA.”

He said he had thought the Government was moving down a more pragmatic path, but he was not so sure.

“I just don’t quite know what the intended strategy is here. This speech just leaves you wondering frankly.”

Mr Dunne said the speech was short on detail, so he was still no closer to knowing whether he could support any changes.

United Future and the Maori Party stymied the Government’s efforts to make changes to the RMA last term, by refusing to give their support.

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/264209/smith’s-rma-speech-strident,-says-dunne

That was before the Northland by-election was announced (and before Mike Sabin resigned):

And in September 2013 “We will vote against RMA changes,” say Peter Dunne and Tariana Turia

The National-led government has lost its parliamentary majority to pass reforms to the Resource Management Act, with the United Future and Maori parties announcing in Wellington this morning that they will not vote for changes that undermine environmental protections.

While both parties support reforms to speed up the resource consenting processes, both believe that proposals to rewrite two fundamental sections dealing with environmental benchmark considerations go too far.

“The changes do far more than rebalance the Act to make consenting procedures more efficient,” said United Future’s sole MP and leader, Peter Dunne, and Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia in a statement.

“We say the changes to remove emphasis on the ‘maintenance and enhancement of the quality of the environment’ fundamentally rewrite the Act and put a spanner in the works of the legal system, which will take years of litigation to fix up,” they said.

That’s entirely consistent with Dunne’s current position as posted yesterday – Dunne’s position on RMA reform.

Dunne’s position on RMA reform

If National lose the Northland by-election then Peter Dunne’s vote becomes more important for National to advance non-confidence and supply legislation. The proposed Resource Management Act reforms are often mentioned in this respect, and it’s often claimed that Dunne opposes RMA reform – but that is only partially correct.

In Losing Northland won’t end National’s RMA plans Hamish Rutherford covered the situation to date:

National will push ahead with its attempts to reform the Resource Management Act even if the party is defeated in the Northland by-election.

However the minister sponsoring the changes concedes a loss on Saturday will complicate matters and force further negotiations with the party’s support partners.

Environment Minister Nick Smith…said that he hoped to build support for changes beyond a bare majority in Parliament, back then National needed only the single vote from ACT leader David Seymour to ensure the legislation could pass.

However, if Winston Peters wins the Northland by-election in Saturday, Smith would be forced to convince another MP, most likely from United Future or the Maori Party, to back changes.

“There is no doubt that if National is not successful in the Northland by-election that the job of resource management reform is going to be more difficult,” Smith said.

“Regardless of the result, Resource Management Act reform will still remain an important priority for the Government.”

Smith said that while he was not clear what concessions a loss on Saturday could make, saying that level of discussion had not taken place he indicated that the process to build support was ongoing.

“Discussion with our support parties are underway,” he said.

But some support parties at least don’t seem to be involved yet.

United Future leader Peter Dunne said he has had no talks with Smith or the government for two months.

“I’ve had no discussion with anyone from the Government about where they want to go or what they want to do since a telephone call with Nick Smith shortly before he gave his speech in Nelson in January,” Dunne said.

Dunne’s position on RMA reform was clarified as much as the lack of information could allow.

Dunne said he was “relaxed” about process changes to the Rama but he remained opposed to changes of section six and seven of the legislation, which set out the principles of the legislation.

This is similar to what Dunne has previously intimated – he is opposed to changing the fundamental principles of the RMA legislation but depending on what National end up proposing he could support process changes.

Perhaps Smith and National are waiting to see how strong (or weakened) their negotiating hand will be after this weekend’s by-election result is known before they actually discuss anything with their support parties.

Smith:

“As I said at the start of the year we would like to get United Future, we’d like to have the Maori Party’s support. Frankly, if Labour is serious about addressing some of the housing affordability issues they too should be supporting changes to the Resource Management Act,” Smith said.

“Even Winston Peters is vaguely supportive of changes to the Resource Management Act. My experience in working with Winston previously is it’s pretty Machiavellian, it’s pretty difficult to work out where he is.”

NZ First is likely to be one of the last cabs off the rank in reform discussions.

If Dunne can negotiate a reasonable balance of removing the obstructionist aspects of the current legislation but retaining fundamental environmental protections then Labour could (and probably should) also support reforms. Then Peters and NZ First will be irrelevant.

And MMP will have worked well.