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The Government has been accused of weakening the Environment Court and riding roughshod over local government with its ambitious Resource Management Act overhaul.
The changes aim to make consents faster, reduce the number of appeals and the number of individual resource management plans by creating national standards.
But opponents say they will strip local councils of their authority, deny people a chance to have a say and are anti-environment.
Environment Minister Amy Adams issued a discussion document on the changes and said there would be clear direction from the Government on housing affordability and natural hazards.
Underpinning the proposed changes was a principle that central government should provide clear direction on matters that are nationally important, encompass national significant values, or where consistency outweighs local considerations.
Local government would be left to make decisions where a community-specific approach was needed.
Prime Minister John Key denied the changes would sideline councils or were anti-environment.
"I think in the end, after 22 years of the existing RMA with a couple of changes, it's time for a fairly major overhaul and that's what we're trying to do." It was about making the system more effective and reducing the long drawn-out process.
Labour environment spokeswoman Maryan Street said the proposed changes went too far and gave government ministers too much power.
They allowed them to intervene directly in local plan-making processes, while reducing the role of the Environment Court.
"That combination of measures allows ministers to ride roughshod over the environmental priorities of local and regional communities."
Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule said local democracy was at the heart of the RMA and people had to be able to have their say in planning and consent matters.
But Chapman Tripp partner John Hassan said the changes were a much needed substantial reform package, not a tune-up.
Some types of development to be processed without notification
Limit on what affected parties can object to
Tighter rules for the scope of potential submissions and appeals
An alternative Crown body to take over consenting processes in areas facing growth management pressures
Consenting authorities to have tools to prevent land banking by developers
Limits on what sort of conditions might be placed on consents.
A 10-working day limit for processing straightforward non-notified consents.
Amend the RMA to update the matters that are considered nationally important.
Allow fewer and more effective national plans.
Allow district and regional councils to choose to group together and jointly prepare a single integrated plan for each district or area.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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