The Natural and Built Environment Bill and Spatial Planning Bill will make resource management issues worse and should be withdrawn, Federated Farmers has told the Environment Select Committee.
“Farmers agree the costly, slow and unpredictable processes under the RMA need fixing, but in getting rid of the old dog the government risks replacing it with an even bigger monster,” Feds national board member and RMA spokesperson Mark Hooper says.
“We are very concerned that the NBE is riddled with new, amorphous terms, like upholding the interconnectedness of the environment, and a focus on well-being will launch New Zealand into a decade of court cases trying to understand what anything in the Bill means.”
Submissions to the select committee closed on Sunday and Federated Farmers argued that requirements for decisions to promote 18 different system outcomes, alongside future well-being and interconnectedness, create an impossible maze for a Minister to navigate when setting new regulations.
“We could accept the pain of going through this process if we thought the new bills would lead to a better outcome in the end. Unfortunately, after a decade of court cases, farmers will be left with a regime that looks very similar to the one they have now, if not worse,” Hooper said.
“While the Minister has been singing ‘Stronger, better, faster’, I can’t help but think of The Who’s ‘We Won’t Get Fooled Again’.”
“When the current RMA was introduced we were told it was ‘world-leading’; 30 years on, no one else in the world has followed our lead in bundling all environmental law together. Under the new bill all the frameworks are still essentially the same and farmers will still need a costly resource consent for all the same things they do now.”
There are also some really concerning aspects to these bills for rural communities and local democracy. The bills propose to shift all planning decisions away from New Zealand’s 67 city and district councils to 15 new Regional Planning Committees. These Regional Planning Committees will have a mix of council and iwi or hapū appointees, none of whom will be directly accountable to the towns and districts they set the rules over, the Feds submission said.
This would mean decisions relating to transport, parks, and urban planning in a place like Taupō would happen in Hamilton, Masterton would see decisions made in Wellington, and Timaru would be planned out of Christchurch.
“This of course happens fast on the heels of decisions to strip district councils of responsibility for Three Waters. If we aren’t careful, there won’t be much left for district councils to do but organise the Santa parade,” Hooper said.
“If the Government is serious about shifting New Zealand from our current three tiers of government to two, this should be done transparently. We don’t accept a situation where district councils are stripped of responsibility piecemeal.
“Federated Farmers knows the Government has put five years into this reform, so it won’t be easy to just start again. But we are also of the view that these bills need a fundamental rethink.
“The song the Minister should be singing is perhaps Kenny Rogers, Know when hold, Know when to fold, and when to walk away.”