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Parliament passes RMA Bill

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 6/04/2017

Parliament has passed the controversial bill that makes sweeping changes to the Resource Management Act.

The government relied on the Maori Party for a bare majority on the legislation, and it passed its third reading on Thursday by 61 votes to 60.

The RMA Amendment Bill is mainly designed to make it easier to free up land for housing and allows ministerial override, in some circumstances, of council planning decisions.

The government's usual allies, ACT and United Future, oppose it and the government struck a deal with the Maori Party by offering enhanced iwi participation in the decision-making process.

NZ First leader Winston Peters strongly opposes that, and has vowed to repeal the bill if his party is part of the next government.

Environment Minister Nick Smith is in charge of the bill and says it's an important part of the government's long-term programme to increase housing supply and affordability.

"The biggest changes to the law are in the content and way plans are developed," he said.

"The current 80,000 pages of RMA plans and rules are excessively complex and expensive.

"The process for writing a plan takes seven years on average. The new national planning standards will hugely reduce the bureaucracy."

Dr Smith says the changes will substantially reduce the number of consents needed.

"Councils will have a new power to waive the need for consents for minor issues - boundary issues like building a deck will be able to be resolved by simply getting a neighbour's consent and the gains will save homeowners millions of dollars in costs and delays."

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