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Government plans RMA power grab

Written By: - Date published: 8:00 am, March 9th, 2016 - 29 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, Environment, national/act government - Tags: , ,


The Government is proposing sweeping changes to the Resource Management Act.

They had planned for even more radical change but the support parties refused to commit so the proposal to weaken the goal of environmental protection by merging sections 5 and 6 of the RMA was removed.

The currently proposed changes include one which would give the relevant Minister extraordinary regulation making powers.  If section 360D is enacted he could prohibit a local authority from making specified rules or specified types of rules in a District Plan and override existing rules.  What is currently preserved to Local Councils will become something that the Minister can direct by regulatory fiat.

There is a limitation in that the Minister has to believe that the existing or proposed rules are restricting land use for residential development in a way that is not reasonably required to achieve the purpose of the Act but for Auckland this is not much of a restriction. And he has to engage in consultation with the affected authority but the powers are significant.

The bottom line is that the Minister could make regulations which would affect matters that locally are considered important and the ability of Councils to include in their plans protective measures reflecting the needs and wishes of the local community would be compromised.

The proposal raises a number of questions.  What happens when a Council wants to change the provisions imposed by regulation?  When can these changes reviewed?  And presumably the ability for a local to seek a plan change would no longer exist if the area of concern had been addressed by regulation.

There is a consultation process that the Minister has to set up if he is thinking of using these regulatory powers.  But his discretion is huge.  All he has to be is satisfied that a change is desirable and the threshold is met.

There are also increased powers given to the Government when formulating National Policy Statements.  It is proposed that the powers exercisable under a NPS include the ability to put constraints or limits on the content of policy statements or plans and the power to direct objectives and policies that must be included in regional policy statements and plans which are currently set by councils.

A recent example of the sorts of things that could occur was the Government’s removal of blanket tree protection.  This had to be achieved by statutory change but from now on the Minister could regulate to stop Council making similar rules.

The clause has been described by David Parker as the dictator clause.  He is not wrong.

Another example involves Councils wanting to be GMO free.  As long as the conditions are met this could be prevented.  The Government has already tried with a change inserted at the last minute to use the National Policy Statement procedure to override Councils that want to be GE free.  Either of the proposed changes would make this easier to achieve.

Another area of concern involves proposed changes on the making of submissions to a policy statement or plan, change to or review of a policy statement or plan, a resource consent, review of a resource consent or change of a condition.  The change proposes that submissions be struck out if a Council is of the opinion that the submission is not supported by any evidence, or the evidence is prepared by a person who is not independent or who does not have sufficient specialised knowledge or skill to give expert evidence.

This would preserve the submission making process largely to those who have the funds and resources to pay for professional submissions to be prepared.  Local community groups would find it very hard to have their opinions heard.

If you want to make submissions the Bill is here and details on how to make a submission are here.  The deadline for making submissions is 14 March 2016.

29 comments on “Government plans RMA power grab ”

  1. Lanthanide 1

    “There is a consultation process that the Minister has to set up if he is thinking of using these regulatory powers. But his discretion is huge. All he has to be is satisfied that a change is desirable and the threshold is met.”

    Why are you assuming the minister is male?

    • vto 1.1

      Maybe the same reason that the current strangulation law change proposal is always referenced as male

    • mickysavage 1.2

      The current minister is a male.

      • Lanthanide 1.2.1

        I doubt there’s a sunset clause on this proposed legislation that ends when the gender of the minister changes.

        • mickysavage

          Nick Smith who is the current Minister is a male. I thought about using “he or she” but decided to use “he” to emphasise that Smith is the Minister likely to exercise the power. Care to address the merits of the post?

          • Lanthanide

            I would have just said “The minster” or “they”.

            I don’t have any other comment on the post. I made the comment I did because that’s the comment I had.

    • Gabby 1.3

      Why are you assuming ‘he’ is male?

      • Lanthanide 1.3.1

        It is true that the masculine personal pronoun ‘he’ used to be used when talking about abstract people. However that is no longer considered politically correct.

    • Ron 1.4

      Who cares who’s who. Its the changes that are important. This is not a gener issue.

  2. ianmac 2

    Shades of ECan takeover. This Government resents Community Democracy. If not a Democracy I guess you have a Dictatorship.
    Perhaps modelled on Fiji?

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1


      National hates democracy as it give the people power over their rich mates money making ventures.

  3. Mosa 3

    Looks like these changes are going to directly effect rate payers who don’t have the money for representation
    The winners will be lawyers
    and expensive consultants

  4. greywarshark 4

    Oh fuck what the hell. Can we not set up a straw-woman when there is something really important to consider?? I care about what is going on. Why should the attention go on whether it is a male or a female criminal politician? People here that discuss think and argue never fail to surprise with their anomalies that rise up divisively and fog the point at issue.

    • Jenny Kirk 4.1

      I agree greywarshark – people going off at tangents that are related but not relevant – very irritating.

      Meanwhile clarifying comment from a district council planning officer on new section in RMA clause 360D says –

      ” Subsection (1)(d) gives the Minister power to make regulations to prohibit or override rules that, in the Minister’s opinion, duplicate, overlap with, or deal with the same subject matter as included in other legislation. This is the worrying clause for councils attempting to regulate GMOs. …… My understanding is that the intent of the amendment is also that regulations made under subsection (1)(d) can require existing rules to be withdrawn or amended whether they were in place before the amendment comes into force or not.”

      “This means that the Minister can prohibit councils from putting rules regulating GMOs into their plans or require councils to remove rules regulating GMOs from their plans. Simple as that.”

    • Lanthanide 4.2

      There have only been 3 ‘substantive’ comments outside of mine and the thread it created. I seriously doubt whether my (small) thread would have disrupted any conversation on this article.

      Doesn’t seem like there’s much to talk about for this article – everyone basically agrees.

      • weka 4.2.1

        “Doesn’t seem like there’s much to talk about for this article – everyone basically agrees.”

        I think it’s more likely that there are few comments because there are a lot of big conversations going on on ts in the past 24 hours. 7 posts have done up today, and there are still 2 major conversations happening from yesterday. This post went up first thing this morning and I’ve only just gotten to it because of the other posts I was reading and responding to.

        Sometimes when I am about to be the first comment under a post I walk away for a while if my comment is a sidebar like yours was. Sidebars can set the tone for the whole thread. It’s also about respecting the person who put the time and effort into writing the post.

  5. Gristle 5

    “In the Minister’s opinion” is an exceedingly low test, and one to which no judicial review is possible. Yes it is dictatorial.

  6. Draco T Bastard 6

    National working to destroy our democracy. Where’s the “Democracy Under Attack” headlines in the MSM?

  7. These are the powers of ministers of the Third Reich. Why do populations always fall for this stuff?

  8. saveNZ 8

    After meddling in Auckland with the SuperCity, Christchurch earthquake recovery, the unity plan fiasco and pretty much every where else and now trying to appoint themselves new powers for RMA….

    You would hope with billions of debt of NZ the government might actually concentrate on what they are supposed to be doing…

    And isn’t what they are doing the opposite of ‘free market’ capitalism when the government steps away from running things because they are considered too incompetent?

    National are running the country like a dictatorship when the government appoints new and extreme powers it itself and it’s cronies to decide overruling current democratic processes…

    Now we have the government giving spies new powers to keep on eye on everyone…. independent from police…

  9. Christine Willis 9

    Yet another law change. They’re coming through thick and fast now. Thank you for the heads up Mick Savage. They’ll be pushing them through before the elections and before TPPA kicks in, in 2018. So NZ will be teed up to match USA Corporation policies.
    Change the government and change the government system – NOW.

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