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Resource Legislation Amendment Bill

Introduced on November 26, 2015, the 180-page  Bill comprised 40 changes to six Acts contained in 235 clauses and eight schedules. Only major change to the principles of the RMA is the inclusion of natural hazards. Changes allow for greater use of national planning templates, faster and more flexible consent processes with a reduction in the need for consultation. Maori Party support for the bill was dependent on giving iwi greater input into planning processes. First reading completed on December 3 with Labour joining National and the Maori Party in support. The Greens, ACT and United Future opposed with NZ First abstaining. The bill was sent to the Local Govt and Environment Committee for consideration, submissions closed on March 14. The select committee was due to report back by June 3, however this has now been pushed back to September 6. During the submission process it became clear many groups had raised genuine concerns.  Those on either end of the conservation v development spectrum raised similar objections about the curtailment of consultation rights, ministerial powers and the limitation of appeals. The delay will also give time for National to build political support for changes. On August 23, Parliament’s Business Committee agreed the report deadline be pushed back again to November 7. The Bill was discharged from the Select Committee on November 7 and on November 10 the Government sent it back to the committee with the support of the Maori Party. This followed National and the Maori Party announcing a deal to pass the Bill with a number of amendments taking many of the edges off the more criticised parts of the Bill and formalising iwi consultation processes. The Select Committee and officials are now working on redrafting the Bill. Reported back on March 6 with a wide number of changes, many as signalled by Environment Minister Nick Smith. National Planning Templates remain, but with a new name “National Planning Standards”, which can prescribe local policy statements and plans.  There will also be a single process for preparing National Environmental Standards and National Directions (formerly called National Policy Statements). Iwi participation arrangements are now called “Mana Whakahono a Rohe” and enable iwi to initiate negotiations. Some streamlined plan making procedures are retained though there are some increases to the scope of public submissions and appeal rights, though it still allows for limited notification for certain plan changes and variations, particularly around housing sub-divisions. The changes have scaled back ministerial powers to issue regulations imposing specific planning rules by limiting them to prohibiting rules duplicating other legislation. However this last point remains a delicate political matter with the Maori Party still determined to allow local authorities to ban the release of genetically modified organisms. The Bill completed its second reading on March 14 with just the Maori Party and National backing its progress. The Maori Party underlined its future support was still dependent on ongoing negotiations to make further amendments in the coming committee stage. The Maori Party then announced a deal had been reached to pass the Bill through its remaining stages. Committee stage completed on April 5 with changes inserted to ensure the Maori Party’s support. This included excluding genetically modified crops from ministerial powers to override local council by-laws. Third reading completed on April 6 with just National and Maori Party in favour. Amongst the objecting parties NZ First stated repeal of the Bill would be a requirement if it was to help form the next government.  Resource Legislation Amendment Bill