Resource management reforms: what you need to know

By now, those working in the resource management space will be aware that the Natural and Built Environment Act 2023 (or NBA) and the Spatial Planning Act 2023 (or SPA) were recently passed into law, receiving Royal Assent on 23 August 2023.  These Acts provide for the reform and eventual repeal of the Resource Management Act 1991.

While the SPA came into force the day after Royal Assent, as well as several provisions in the NBA, there is no need to be alarmed!  There’s still plenty of time for councils to wrap their heads around the new system (including the many new acronyms), with the changes to be gradually phased in over a period of 10 or so years.

There is also the potential for the Acts to be repealed “before Christmas”… so watch this space!

What now?

For now, the status quo (the RMA) mostly applies.  However, there are a few changes with immediate effect:

  • Fast track consenting: This is available for certain housing and infrastructure developments, and is not dissimilar to the process in the COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020.
  • Freshwater consent duration: For certain freshwater consents applied for on or after 24 August 2023, the maximum consent duration is reduced to no more than five years after allocation methods in regions’ first NBA plans come into effect.
  • Increase in fines: There are significant increases in fines for non-compliance under the RMA.
  • Extended limitation period: The limitation period for any breach or alleged breach of the RMA committed on or after 24 August 2023 has been increased from 12 months to 2 years.
  • Compliance history: This can now be taken into account when deciding resource consent applications.
  • Application to suspend or revoke a consent: Local authorities can apply to the Environment Court to suspend or revoke a consent if they identify significant, ongoing, or repeated non-compliance with conditions.
  • Contaminated land: The polluter pays – both the EPA and local authorities can recover costs from the polluter for taking action.  Further, regional councils must identify all land that is or has been used for HAIL activities and keep public records of this information.
  • Aquaculture management: Regional councils must update information about aquaculture settlement areas in regional coastal plans.  Councils must update their plans as soon as possible, without using the typical (Schedule 1) plan change process.
  • Requiring authorities: From 24 November 2023, an applicant other than a network utility operator may apply to the Minister for approval as a requiring authority (including for any specific project or works) provided they meet the public benefit and other criteria in s 514.

What next?

Work has commenced on the transitional National Planning Framework which will be notified in April 2024 and in force by 2025.  This must enable the preparation of the first Regional Spatial Strategies and will incorporate current NPSs and NESs. Regional planning committees will then develop their RSS, followed by their NBE plans.  Each region will fully switch to the new system when its NBE plan comes into effect.

If you need assistance navigating the new system, or working within a dual-system, get in touch with our team!

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