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Update from the recent NZPI Conference

By Jo Morrow - Marketing

Sentinel Planning provides the update from the recent NZPI conference, from the speech by the Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Reform of the Resource Management Act, Chris Bishop.

Current Challenges in New Zealand:

  • Difficulty and expense in completing projects due to planning regulations.
  • High costs and complexities in obtaining consents for major projects.
  • Housing affordability issues despite ample land resources.
  • Growing squalor in motel accommodations while houses remain expensive.

Need for Economic Growth:

  • Economic growth is essential for improving living standards, infrastructure, and environmental sustainability.
  • Growth creates better job opportunities, education, healthcare, and overall quality of life.
  • Pro-development and pro-growth governments focus on delivering tangible outcomes.

RMA Objectives:

  • Simplify planning processes to facilitate housing and business growth.
  • Ensure environmental protection and adaptation to climate change.
  • Enhance regulatory quality while upholding the Treaty of Waitangi settlements.

RMA Reform Phases:

Phase One: 

  • Repealed Natural and Built Environment Act and Spatial Planning Act.

Phase Two:

  • Introducing a one-stop-shop consenting and permitting regime for regionally and nationally significant projects.
  • Ministers to be the final decision-makers on the project that will be dealt with under the act.
  • An expert panel will have a max of 6 months to apply relevant consent and permit conditions before the project is referred to joint Ministers for approval.
  • Targeted amendments to the RMA to reduce unnecessary regulations – in the form of two Amendment Bills:
    First Bill (RM Bill 1): 
  • Narrowly scoped, to be introduced in May.
  • Aims to clarify the hierarchy of obligations in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.
  • Extends the duration of marine farm consents and halts the implementation of new Significant Natural Areas for three years for review.
  • Second Bill: 
  • More substantive, expected later in 2024.
  • Focuses on housing and renewable energy.
  • Housing: It makes Medium-Density Residential Standards optional for councils, mandates zoning for 30 years of growth, and strengthens the National Policy Statement on Urban Development, particularly around mixed-use zoning.
  • Renewable energy: Supports the Electrify New Zealand policy to double renewable energy, involving changes to the RMA and national direction

Phase Three:

  • Developing policy and legislation to replace the RMA.
  • Guided by principles of property rights, economic growth, and environmental protection.
  • Establishing an Expert Ministerial Advisory Group to shape the new regime.

Upcoming Legislation:

  • Fast-Track Approvals Bill for regionally and nationally significant projects.
  • RM Bill 1 with targeted RMA amendments, followed by a more substantive second bill.

Focus on housing supply, renewable energy, and simplified planning processes.

Simons Summary:

Of particular relevance to what we do is the second bill in late 2024 as this covers the MDRS and the ability for Councils to opt out.

As such the MDRS rules will be around at least until the second bill is approved by parliament and then the Councils will have to demonstrate to the Govt that they have 30 years of growth within their plans.

Auckland Council will almost certainly opt out of the MDRS, once / if they are able to demonstrate to the Govt that they have enabled sufficient growth capacity.  Then the Council’s Planning, Environment and Parks committee will meet and then MDRS component of the AUP and most likely the majority of Proposed Plan Change 78 will be revoked.

Overall, from a planning perspective, there will be little change this year.

The government has also announced a change which will allow NZ to substitute materials to overseas options that have been approved in Australia, USA, Canada or Europe.  This should bring down the cost of building over time,  depending on the competence of the staff at MBIE and Council as the quasi-regulators.

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