News Item

June 2017

New study prepares for RMA shake-up

A major review of New Zealand’s environmental management system has been launched in anticipation of fundamental reform of the Resource Management Act.

The Environmental Defence Society review launched today, New Zealand’s Resource Management Law: the Next Generation, is made possible by $356,000 of New Zealand Law Foundation funding. The 18-month project will study New Zealand experience and international best practice in environmental management law and make evidence-based recommendations for change.

EDS CEO Gary Taylor says “The RMA was world-leading when enacted 26 years ago, but New Zealand is now a very different place changing demographics, growth pressures and reaching environmental limits mean that a fundamental rethink is needed. The EDS review will ensure high-quality thinking is done in advance to help shape the new regime.”

“Now that the latest RMA amendments have been enacted, the National-led Government or any new government post-election is likely to launch a major reform initiative in 2018, possibly involving a royal commission or similar. We want to hit the ground running with some properly researched and evidenced ideas,” Gary says.

Among the issues up for debate will be the complexity of current arrangements, the role of local authorities, central government and the courts and involvement of citizens in environmental decisions and planning.

One of the outcomes EDS will seek is more simplicity and efficiency in the process. They say there needs to be less drag, less time consumed. But at the same time, the community has expectations around environmental bottom-lines that must be met.

The project is expected to produce a small range of scenarios, different ways of approaching reform, and then a more detailed working-up of preferred options.

Gary Taylor says the progression of recent EDS reports has built the foundation for a rethink of the whole system. The RMA review project, which begins on 1 July, is by far the largest backed by the Law Foundation. “It’s great to have the support of an organisation that takes a very progressive view of the world. Often funding will proscribe the kind of outcome that might be sought, but the Law Foundation is completely open-minded: once it has identified a topic of interest and relevance, it’s keen to encourage creative, properly researched and innovative thinking,” Gary concluded.

Law Foundation Executive Director Lynda Hagen says “The Law Foundation has a strong track record of supporting projects that contribute to long-term policy development, and this EDS project is a classic example: it’s preparing the ground for major reform that’s not happening tomorrow, but is not far down the track.”

Publications from other recent EDS research projects supported by the Law Foundation:

  • Last Line of Defence (2017)
  • Pathways to Prosperity (2016)
  • Vanishing Nature (2015)
  • Wonders of the Sea (2012)
Link to the above EDS publications

The Law Foundation is providing $356,000 for this EDS research project