The RMA is a quick and cheap process in the vast majority of cases, and it is regarded as a world-leading piece of legislation. Few consent applications are refused or appealed. Reforms of the RMA over the years have made it more efficient. The studies show that the delays that do happen in consents being granted are usually due to incomplete applications and lack of resources at councils.
So, what does National want to do the RMA? Basically, it wants to take away our right to have a say about large developments and private use of public resources that affects our communities. Courts would be given the power to demand security for costs when objections meaning only well-funded groups could afford to object. Major projects would not go through the normal local process but will be fast-tracked through central government (National’s ‘Environmental Protection Agency’). It appears it would be harder for communities to object when this process is used, which is where major time savings would theoretically come in (personally, I think it will just end up with more complex cases going through the courts under judicial review, rather than through the environment court). Dealing with central government and more complex legal issues would prevent many local groups having the ability to object that they do currently. Why would National want that? Because public objections get in the way of businesses doing whatever the hell they want. Get rid of the objections, get rid of the hold-ups.
National points to electricity generation and transmission as the kind of major projects this ‘priority consent’ process would speed up. But there is already a call-in power that ministers have used to help fast-track electricity projects. That power, however, is only used for projects of national importance. Given that existing power, National’s ‘priority consenting’ seems (it’s not detailed) intended to remove public say over private developments that are not of national importance.
It really is more of the same from National. Vague policy using innocuous language that thinly veils an intention to give more control to those who have money and power, and less to the rest of us.