RM Reform Project

Transforming the RM System
Opportunities for Change: Issues and Options Paper
The government's Resource Management Review Panel's paper can be viewed here.

Resource Management System: A comprehensive review (the Randerson Report) here.

REFORM OF THE RESOURCE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM: THE URBAN CONTEXT

FULL REPORT: available in electronic format via the links below

SUMMARY REPORT: available in hard copy (no charge, postage only payable) via our online bookshop. Also available in electronic format as a pdf via the links below.

REFORM OF THE RESOURCE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM: A MODEL FOR THE FUTURE

PROJECT PHASE 2

A copy of the Final Synthesis Report can be viewed in full or summary format below. You can also purchase hard copies (no charge, postage only payable) via our online bookshop.

PHASE 2 WORKING PAPERS CAN BE VIEWED BELOW:

  

REFORM OF THE RESOURCE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM: THE NEXT GENERATION 

PHASE 1

NOTE THESE FILES SHOW SOME INCOMPATIBLITY WITH INTERNET EXPLORER AND WE SUGGEST YOU OPEN AND SAVE THESE FILES EITHER IN GOOGLE CHROME OR FIREFOX.

NOTE THESE FILES SHOW SOME INCOMPATIBLITY WITH INTERNET EXPLORER AND WE SUGGEST YOU OPEN AND SAVE THESE FILES EITHER IN GOOGLE CHROME OR FIREFOX.

Click the cover image above to view and download a pdf version of the paper. 

THE PROJECT

Between 2017 and 2020 the Environmental Defence Society (EDS) undertook a major review of New Zealand's resource management system. This system currently is centred on the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA), but includes many other pieces of legislation, institutions, tools and processes. The idea was that systemic reforms are needed that go well beyond just another amendment to the RMA, a perspective that is shared by many commentators and has gained further momentum following the emergence of Covid-19.

The project was funded by the New Zealand Law Foundation, the Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation and others, and had three phases. Overall, it took a first principles look at how the system operates, and provided perspectives on how it could be improved for the coming decades. The first phase was about defining the system, breaking it down into themes, and providing various reform options. This produced an extensive synthesis report, which concluded by putting forward three overall models for what a future system could look like. This report won the Resource Management Law Association’s best publication award. The work’s second phase produced another extensive report that put forward a single preferred model for change. The third phase looked at the urban context in particular, emphasising the need for fundamental reform for our cities, the need to rethink and replace the RMA, and the importance of looking at how we plan and fund things beyond that Act.

The project involved a phased and comprehensive programme of research and analytical work, supported by extensive engagement and the publication of many working papers. It looked at a range of themes, topics and issues. Its primary lens was a legal one – the regulatory and institutional framework needed – but it also investigated non-legal matters. Analysis encompassed diverse topics, including international law, legal principles and environmental ethics, legislative design, governance and institutional structures, participatory arrangements, and legal/economic tools. It looked at what was not working well with the current system, but also at what innovative and different approaches could be taken in a future that will look very different from the present.

We explored many problems, challenges and opportunities in New Zealand’s resource management system. Reforms to the RMA – New Zealand’s main environmental statute – have occurred in a piecemeal fashion, producing a patchwork of laws and a framework that has lost much of its original simplicity and coherence. Thirty years on, we are due for an overall review of the Act as a whole. But the system by which we manage our natural and built environments is much wider than the RMA. It is about the role of Māori, infrastructure planning and funding, conservation management, forestry and mining, climate change mitigation, institutional structures, capacity and capability and much more.

It is in this context that a series of significant environmental challenges have emerged or worsened in recent times. Many indicators of environmental health are now rapidly declining. For some – such as freshwater and coastal environments – tipping points appear not far away or even exceeded in some places. Cumulative effects are not being managed well. Climate change is another issue that needs addressing. Our system of environmental law and its implementers have not fully realised the aspirations of sustainable resource management and ecosystem integrity.

The system is also failing to deliver on social, economic and cultural outcomes. This is particularly evident in large urban areas (especially Auckland), where dramatic increases in population and development pressures, a booming housing market, and a scarcity of resources have caused many to question whether the system remains fit for purpose in the context of cities. The RMA provides a single framework for managing urban and non-urban areas. It provides for both land use/growth planning and common pool resources like air, freshwater and the marine environment. But the urban challenges the country is now facing – such as housing affordability, pressure on infrastructure, and development uncertainty – are shaking the foundations of the law, and provoking difficult questions. Are there better ways to achieve good urban outcomes while not threatening the integrity of the natural environment? And from a broader perspective, what do we want our society and environment to look like for our grandchildren? How we look after our resources is central to such questions.

We were excited to see momentum for change building as the project progressed. In particular, during Phase 2 of the work the government established an independent Panel, chaired by the Hon Tony Randerson QC, to look into fundamental reform of the resource management system. EDS’s policy director, Raewyn Peart, was appointed to the Panel, and the EDS project was specifically identified by the Minister for the Environment as an input to be considered. In mid-2020 the Panel produced a well-considered and thoughtful final report that in many ways echoed the key conclusions of the EDS project. Deep reforms of the resource management system look highly likely to occur over the coming few years, and we are excited to see our work having laid some of the groundwork for what we hope will be generational change.

Again, thanks go to the funders of the work, notably the New Zealand Law Foundation and the Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation, as well as all the contributors, reviews, interviewees and others who have been involved over the past three years.  

PROJECT STAFF

Raewyn Peart, Policy Director

Greg Severinsen, Senior Policy Researcher

 

Thank you to the New Zealand Law Foundation and the Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation for their support of this project.

Also thanks to the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern), Property Council of New Zealand and Infrastructure New Zealand for providing financial support for the project.

Last updated at 8:49PM on October 14, 2020