RMA needs change in law and practice

Solving problems with the Resource Management Act require changes in both law and practice, Environment Minister Nick Smith said.

He was commenting on the release of the two-yearly report on local authorities’ administration of the RMA.

“This report tells a sorry story of delay, frustration and unnecessary costs for more than 16,000 homeowners, businesses and farmers whose consents last year were not processed within the legal timeframes,” Dr Smith said.

“This problem has been ignored and got progressively worse over the past decade increasing from 18% to 31%, despite a nine-fold increase from 3% to 28% in consents where Councils granted themselves a 20-day extension.”

It’s not just a problem of  direct costs to applicants and ratepayers, it’s the indirect costs to the country because these delays hamper economic growth.

The Resource Management Reform Bill aims to simplify the consent process and give councils incentives to improve the time it takes to deal with applications.

“The wide variation in the performance of Councils shows that practice can be substantially improved. Eight councils who are breaching the law more often than they are complying are receiving a letter from me seeking improvements. I have also written to the 25 councils with 90% or better compliance commending them on their performance.

“I also want to commend Councils for the improvement in the proportion of consents being monitored – that is up to 79%, and for the 84% level of compliance with consent conditions which is a record high.

“The efficient processing of resource consents is critical to lifting productivity and the creation of new jobs. This report is a wake-up call that significant improvement is required.”

The basic premise and aims of the RMA are good, but changes in some of its clauses and improved performance by under-performing councils is essential to improve productivity while safeguarding the environment.

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