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RMA bill through its second reading

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 14/03/2017

Marama Fox. © MARTY MELVILLE/AFP/Getty Images Marama Fox. The Maori Party's two votes have allowed the government to put its controversial changes to the Resource Management Act through another stage in parliament.

The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill passed its second reading 61-59 with National and the Maori Party supporting it and all the other parties opposed - including government allies ACT and United Future.

The bill was held up for months because the government didn't have the numbers to pass it, until Environment Minister Nick Smith negotiated a deal with the Maori Party.

At the core of the bill are changes to parts of the RMA which govern environmental and planning decisions.

They're designed to make it easier for land to be developed for housing and the minister will in some circumstances be able to override council decisions.

"The reform is critical to addressing housing supply and affordability by making it easier, faster and less costly to create new sections," Dr Smith said after the bill had passed its second reading.

"It opens up land supply and reduces the time taken to get consents."

Opposition parties says it's an assault on democracy.

Dr Smith won the Maori Party's support by allowing enhanced iwi participation in decision-making, but he still has some work to do.

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox says her party's support at the second reading doesn't mean it has put aside all its concerns.

But she's confident "ongoing talks" with Dr Smith will resolve those issues.

The bill still has to go through its committee and third reading stages before it becomes law.

It's most important provisions include:

* National planning standards to reduce complexity and cost

* Streamlined planning process

* Discretion for councils to exempt an activity from consents

* Strengthening of requirements to manage natural hazard risks

* New requirements for councils to free up land for housing

* New provisions to enable stock exclusion from waterways

* More generous compensation for land required for public works

* Improved Maori participation arrangements

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