MEDIA RELEASE: RMA reforms, urban development and natural hazards

02 April 2017

RMA reforms, urban development and natural hazards key issues for 2017 - NZPI


Resource Management Act reforms, urban development and natural hazards will be the top three planning issues affecting New Zealand in 2017, according to the New Zealand Planning Institute (NZPI).


These challenges will be among those addressed at NZPI's annual conference in Wellington this week (April 4 to 7). Water management, living-roof urbanism, Maori participation in Resource Management processes, compact cities, transport and rural issues will also be on the agenda.

Speakers at the event include leading economist and media commentator Shamubeel Eaqub, urban futurist Stephen Yarwood, landscape architect Professor Elizabeth Mossop and Environment Court judges John Hassan and David Kirkpatrick.

The NZPI's 'Changing Places' conference will address the merging relationship between built and natural environments. More than 600 delegates are expected to attend, including industry leaders, iwi, resource managers, urban designers, scientists, environmental advocates and local and central government.

For the first time in the event's 53-year history a political forum will also be held, whereby New Zealand's main political parties and their planning reform policies will be challenged by conference delegates. Chaired by conference MC, business journalist Bernard Hickey, the political forum on Thursday, 6 April will feature presentations by Scott Simpson MP (National), David Parker MP and Phil Twyford MP (Labour), Eugenie Sage MP (Green Party), Denis O'Rourke (NZ First) and Marama Fox MP (Maori Party).

The 2017 conference coincides with a period of flagship reforms and legislative change.

NZPI chief executive David Curtis says planning in New Zealand has reached a new threshold.

"The planning framework and practice is fast evolving with changes in legislation, new local government structures and the influence of case law," says Curtis.

"The natural environment and our towns and urban areas are subject to new pressures that need to be addressed, for example high levels of immigration and intensive development.

"Our communities are smarter and engaging with new technology in unprecedented numbers. In response, local government and private sector companies are investing in new technology and systems to deliver, capture and engage citizens and planners alike in the regulatory process.

"The recent high-profile earthquake events, and the subsequent impact on infrastructure and the environment, also serve as a timely reminder of the importance around improving systems and techniques for planning and responding to natural hazards."

The impending Resource Legislation Amendment Bill, which is expected to soon become law, and the recently gazetted National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity (NPS-UDC), are expected to significantly alter the planning landscape.

The NPS-UDC requires councils in rapidly growing urban areas - such as Auckland, Christchurch, Tauranga, Queenstown and Hamilton - to provide enough land for new housing and business development. The Government signed off on the policy in October this year.

Auckland's Unitary Plan and new local government guidance for coastal hazards and climate change are also expected to impact planning processes.

"Resource Management Act reforms in particular are a hot topic and will be a key theme at the conference," says Curtis.

"Twenty five years since this principal piece of legislation was passed, there are now various planning and regulatory challenges that need to be addressed - for example housing affordability, the role of iwi in the planning process, water quality, urban development and the location of infrastructure.

"The key question for us, as planners, is how we meet future economic, environmental and sustainability demands while operating in an environment of unprecedented reform.

"We play a critical role in shaping New Zealand's future, helping to develop solutions to key issues at both a regional and national level. The 2017 conference is a significant event within the industry, providing an opportunity to address the challenges and opportunities ahead."