First RMA Amendment Bill Proposes Urgent Changes To Resource Management System

First RMA Amendment Bill Proposes Urgent Changes To Resource Management System

The coalition Government is pushing forward with its pledge to overhaul resource management laws, aiming to inject greater certainty into the consent application process. 

The proposed Resource Management Act (RMA) Amendment Bill, slated for introduction to Parliament next month, targets key alterations to the current system.

Minister Chris Bishop, spearheading the RMA reform, highlighted the urgency of the amendments, emphasising their potential to streamline processes and foster development in pivotal sectors such as farming and mining. 

"RM Bill #1 focuses on targeted changes that can take effect quickly and give certainty to councils and consent applicants," he affirmed.

Outlined provisions of the bill include:

  • Clarification of NPS-FM Guidelines: Pending the review and replacement of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM), consent applicants would no longer be required to adhere to the Te Mana o te Wai hierarchy of obligations.

  • Adjustments to Stock Exclusion Regulations: Amendments would be made concerning stock exclusion on sloped land, aiming for a more balanced approach.

  • Repeal of Intensive Winter Grazing Regulations: Contentious regulations surrounding winter grazing would be eliminated, with a shift towards a risk-based, catchment-focused strategy.

  • Consenting Pathway Alignment for Coal Mining: The bill proposes aligning the consenting pathway for coal mining with other mining activities, fostering consistency across related policies.

  • Suspension of SNA Identification Requirement: The requirement for councils to identify new Significant Natural Areas (SNAs) would be suspended for a three-year period.

Agriculture Minister Todd McClay underscored the importance of enhancing primary sector profitability while ensuring regulations do not impose undue burdens. He emphasised the need for regulations to be aligned with the interests of all water users.

Regarding winter grazing regulations, McClay noted significant improvements in farming practices, with a proposed removal of prescriptive and expensive winter grazing consents by the 2025 season.

Associate Environment Minister Andrew Hoggard highlighted the introduction of freshwater farm plans as a pivotal step towards tailored environmental management. These plans, initiated in select regions in 2023, aim to simplify the complex regulatory landscape and empower farmers to address environmental risks effectively.

Hoggard also addressed concerns regarding the identification of SNAs, acknowledging the need for a balance between conservation efforts and land use flexibility.

The proposed bill, expected to be introduced in May, marks a significant step towards achieving a more responsive and efficient resource management framework. With a focus on targeted changes and stakeholder collaboration, the amendments seek to drive sustainable development while addressing pressing environmental challenges.