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RMA reform bill to miss latest deadline

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 20/10/2016 Pattrick Smellie

The government's latest attempt to reform the Resource Management Act continues to run into trouble, with the chairman of the select committee conceding on Thursday that the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill will miss its third reportback deadline of Nov. 7.

In part, the delay appears related to the fact that Environment Minister Nick Smith is still negotiating with the Maori Party over aspects of the bill, which is struggling to gain sufficient support from government support partners to pass into law.

Prime Minister John Key said on Monday he believed agreements had been reached with the two-MP Maori Party, but Smith confirmed in a text message on Wednesday that "discussions with the Maori Party are progressing and constructive but not yet concluded" and were "some time away".

The chair of the local government and environment select committee, Scott Simpson, told BusinessDesk the committee had still not received the second report on the vexed reforms from officials this week, having already waited at least three weeks beyond the expected date of receipt.

That made the Nov. 7 deadline for reporting the legislation back to Parliament impossible to meet.

The delay threatens the government's determination to pass the reforms before Christmas, with only three sitting weeks of Parliament left after the week of Nov. 7 for a bill that Environment Minister Nick Smith says has involved complex drafting following more than 1,000 submissions that had already seen the report back delayed twice.

Introduced to Parliament last November, the bill involves reforms not only to the RMA but a raft of other environment laws, including the regime governing the Exclusive Economic Zone.

It was originally to have been reported back on July 3, then Sept. 6, then Nov. 7.

However, MPs on the select committee have received a draft report on the bill, which is understood to run to more than 300 pages.

"That's given members an opportunity to get their head around it," Simpson said.

The committee will next meet on the bill on Oct. 31, when it is hoped the second officials' report will have been furnished, to allow Parliament's business committee to plot the legislation's passage through the House before Christmas.

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