Log In

Reset Password

Govt has work cut out to undo RMA

Opinion Piece

The Labour-led Government has taken on what will be one of the most difficult tasks of its first term, reform of the Resource Management Act, which has been labelled a failure and not fit for purpose even by its creator Sir Geoffrey Palmer.

When the act was introduced 30 years ago, it was regarded as a piece of groundbreaking and transformational legislation that was world-leading. Since then, however, it has become extraordinarily complex and contradictory, shown by the fact that with amendments the existing bill is twice as long as the original.

The two great criticisms are that it has become a handbrake on development while failing to protect the environment — freshwater quality has deteriorated to an alarming extent.

Environment Minister David Parker said he intended to revamp the law to make it fit for the 21st century. To do that, the Government will introduce a number of minor amendments immediately and will appoint a review panel headed by retired Court of Appeal judge Tony Randerson. That panel is due to report by June 2020, which is significantly close to the next election, making it even more likely to be a major issue for campaigns of all the parties involved.

National had several attempts to review the act in its previous term but was unable to get agreement from the smaller parties.

That problem looks likely to arise from the present coalition. Winston Peters has opposed Maori representation in the past, saying it is a step towards separatism. Labour’s strong Maori caucus and the Greens will take a completely opposite view.

National is not giving any assurances of co-operation, saying the establishment of the panel is creating yet another talkfest.

It is all shaping up to be something that matches the 12 labours of Hercules or (perhaps a more appropriate analogy) untying the Gordian knot. Whoever could do that became the ruler of Asia.

If the Government can untangle the act, they will almost certainly be rulers of New Zealand for another three years.