RMA Review

13 September 2019

In August the Hon David Parker, Minister of Environment, announced the process and proposed scope and terms of reference for the upcoming review of the RMA. NZPI was approached among other key stakeholders for comment on the review, and about membership of the expert panel to be chaired by Tony Randerson QC.

NZPI considered panel membership with colleagues in the RMLA. We submitted that in our experience, it is when ‘the rubber hits the road’ that the true success of legislative reform is evident, and this requires consideration, from the outset, of policy operationalisation. For this reason, the NZPI and RMLA argued that, when establishing the Panel members, it should include an experienced practitioner. We are delighted that the membership – announced on the 9th September – includes exactly that, with the inclusion of Amelia Linzey, who is a leading resource management planner and the Senior Technical Director of the planning team at engineering and planning consultancy Beca. Amelia is also the editor of NZPI’s Planning Quarterly magazine.

The release from the government can be found here and further information on the full Panel membership can be found on the MfE’s website here.

NZPI generally agreed with the list of key issues identified the review’s Terms of Reference but argued that an additional issue cluster was needed entitled “Practice”, and included these four areas:

  • Monitoring and measurement. As planning becomes outcome orientated, the present focus on measuring and reporting numbers of consents processed within statutory timeframes needs to be expanded to address outcomes and include measures and datasets relating to the achievement of the social, economic and environmental outcomes;

  • Increased support via continued national guidance and best practice advice e.g. Quality Planning website, MfE and other Government national practice toolboxes, and education programmes will be needed to ensure the profession has the knowledge and skills to implement new planning requirements;

  • The legislation must recognise that plans and planning is undertaken in a digital medium. New practice tools should be required by the Act enabling a 24/7 digital ePlanning system that enables an efficient response to new issues and that allows citizens quick and easy access to planning provisions and decision-making;

  • Introduction of the Registration of the Profession of Planning, to be consistent with other professions that are currently involved with the RMA e.g. Engineers, Architects, Surveyors as a mechanism for increasing the capability of the profession and to address the current situation of unqualified persons acting in a professional capacity to the detriment of the outcomes.

NZPI also drew attention to two practical matters that need to be brought into the review:

  • Several new National Policy Statements were expected. These include: Urban Development, Versatile Soils, Biodiversity, and Freshwater. Other National Policy Statements are also in play including the Coastal Policy Statement and two related to electricity. NZPI has raised questions with MfE officials about how relevant national policy statements are to be weighed against each other when considering a particular application.

  • While the words “spatial planning” are used in MfE review papers, there is little discussion about what activities, processes and purposes might be intended or anticipated. We suggest that rather than trying to reinvent the spatial planning wheel, a better approach would be to consider international best practice examples - e.g. the recent planning system review and reform work conducted in the State of South Australia which has led to its Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016.

We continue to work to ensure our voice is heard and the matters that are important to our members are fully considered in this review. As such, we look forward to supporting Amelia and having continued engagement with review panel in this once in a generation review of our resource management system.