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RMA reform bill report delayed two months

NZN 30/05/2016 Pattrick Smellie

More than 1,000 substantive submissions and a range of knotty problems thrown up during public hearings have prompted a two-month delay in the report back to Parliament from the local government and environment select committee on reforms to the Resource Management Act.

The committee was due to report back on the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill, containing reforms to the RMA and several other pieces of law relating to environmental management, on July 3, but has now been granted until Sept. 6 to reach conclusions on a bill that numerous submitters have found fault with.

Committee chairman Scott Simpson told BusinessDesk it was "premature" to discuss what changes might be made to the bill and stressed that the two-month delay would have little impact on the parliamentary sitting time available to get the bill through the House before the end of this calendar year.

Officials were now preparing a "high level issues paper" to help the committee deliberate on a range of major issues identified in submissions.

Soundings in the Beehive suggest Environment Minister Nick Smith is aware the RLA Bill, introduced last November, has drafting deficiencies and will need work, while the government is understood to be unmoved by objections to the iwi participation elements of the bill, which have so far sparked little political backlash.

RMA reform has proven fraught since the government pushed through a range of relatively uncontroversial reforms in its first term. Since then, attempts to reform two of the RMA's three "purpose" clauses have seen considerable political capital expended, but without success.

The RLA Bill introduced by Smith last November involved major compromises and politically contentious concessions to the Maori Party, which required enhanced iwi participation in environmental decision-making in return for supporting a bill that National's other two parliamentary support partners, Act and United Future, oppose, albeit for different reasons.

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