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RMA replacements receive restrained response

The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) has long been criticised, on one side for lacking force to protect the interests of environmental conservation groups or some Māori, and on the other for being overly burdensome and ambiguous, being abused by companies to prevent competition, and for undermining property rights.

The Government is proposing to replace it with three laws, the Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA), the Spatial Planning Act requiring local committees to develop 30-year regional plans, and the unreleased Climate Change Adaptation Act.

The NBA centralises planning, replacing 100 district and regional plans with 15 regional plans, and allows for the involvement of an independent national Māori entity, albeit without the teeth for this group that Māori interests are afforded in the Three Waters legislation. It replaces Government policy statements on water, air quality and other issues with one framework, according to three resource allocation principles: efficiency, equity, and sustainability.

Thus far criticism of the new laws is similar to criticism of the RMA, from both sides of the political aisle. Roger Partridge of think tank The New Zealand Initiative says the laws as drafted will add even more bureaucratic uncertainty in the resource consent process.

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