What should the Government do to calm rising housing prices?
Stronger direction from central Government on housing affordability has been signalled in an overhaul of the Resource Management Act.
Proposed changes include provision for some types of development to be processed without notification, a limit on what affected parties could object to, tighter rules around the scope of potential submissions and appeals, and provision for an alternative Crown body to take over consenting processes in areas facing growth management pressures.
Consenting authorities would also be provided with tools to prevent land-banking by developers and there would be limits on what sort of conditions they might be able to place on consents.
Announcing the proposals today, Environment Minister Amy Adams said the aim of the changes was to streamline resource consents and reduce costly re-litigation.
She released a discussion document for consultation.
In other measures consents, which were often out of proportion, particularly for those with minor effects, would be made more efficient through a 10-working-day time limit for processing straightforward non-notified consents.
And Adams said there would be clear direction from central government on important contemporary matters such as housing affordability and natural hazards.
Underpinning the proposed changes was a general principle that central government should provide clear direction on matters that were nationally important, encompassed national significant values, or where consistency outweighed local considerations, she said.
The role of local government would be in decision-making where there are local circumstances that demanded a more site- or community-specific approach, or where the costs and benefits were localised and the local authority was best-placed to make the decision.
Part two of the Resource Management Act would be amended by updating the matters identified as being nationally important, she said.
There would also be changes designed to allow fewer and more effective national plans.
"These proposals would combine all the planning instruments in a defined area into an easy-to-use format that would provide applicants with a one stop shop for the planning rules that affect their properties and activities," Adams said.
"Under this approach, a national template would remove unnecessary inconsistency in current rules and improve the ease of understanding and usability of plans."
Planning would be "future-focused", and make provision for important matters
such as housing affordability, infrastructure development and urban growth management.
District and regional councils would be able to choose to group together and jointly prepare a single integrated plan for each district or area, she said.
Changes would also be made to appeal provisions.
Labour environment spokeswoman Maryan Street said that while the RMA needed an overhaul, the proposed changes went too far and gave government ministers too much power.
The changes allowed ministers to intervene directly in local plan-making processes and at the same time, proposed to reduce the role of the Environment Court significantly..
"That combination of measures allows ministers to ride roughshod over the environmental priorities of local and regional communities," Street said.
"We need to maintain the independent oversight of the Environment Court which is informed and driven by a piece of legislation designed to protect our environment, not to promote urban sprawl or sacrifice the environment to developers."