< July 2023 newsletter

Full steam ahead on RMA replacement legislation

After reviewing more than 3,000 submissions, the Environment Select Committee has reported back to Parliament (27 June) on the Natural and Built Environment and Spatial Planning Bills.  

Despite the hundreds of amendments to the bills, the report does nothing to alleviate our concerns. The proposed legislation continues to enshrine inequitable rights based on race; reduces democratic accountability; diminishes local voices; and increases uncertainty. 

You can read our original article that lays out our concerns here.

The Select Committee has recommended minor tidy-ups but has not proposed any significant changes to the provisions relating to consents, designations, the allocation of water resources, and the subjective nature of many of the provisions.

Below are a few of the contentious provisions the report continues to endorse:

The purpose statement continues to be vague 

One of our main concerns is the ill-defined language used in Natural and Built Environment bill’s purpose statement (cl 3). 

In its report, the Environment Committee agreed that the single purpose with two limbs could be interpreted as a dual purpose, which would create difficulties with its application. In an attempt to alleviate this issue, the Committee has recommended a single purpose: which is to uphold te Oranga o te Taiao. The te Oranga o te Taiao provision has recommended an expanded list of meanings, which includes all the following: 

• the health of the natural environment; and 
• the relationship between the health of the natural environment and its capacity to sustain life; and
• the relationship between the health of the natural environment and the health and well-being of people and communities; and 
• the interconnectedness of all parts of the environment; and 
• the relationship between iwi and hapū and te Taiao that is based on whakapapa.

This provision has been roundly criticized by the New Zealand Initiative, who have pointed out that when a Bills objective is this vague, its provisions are rudderless. You can read the assessment by Dr Bryce Wilkinson here.

The ACT Party put it like this:

At the highest level, the bills purpose is to to uphold te Oranga o te Taiao”. This is given a list of vague definitions with completely new terminology without any hierarchy. The bill throws in vague and puzzling concepts without any definition. How courts will interpret such confusing statements is unknown. This is a recipe for judicial mayhem.”

Give effect to the principles of te Tiriti o Waitangi stays

The NBE Bill retains the requirement that all persons exercising powers and performing functions and duties under the legislation must give effect to the [undefined] principles of te Tiriti o Waitangi. This provision carries significant legal implications. It will likely make things more difficult to do things, not easier.

Freshwater allocation concerns

The NBE Bill retains provision for engagement between the Crown, iwi and hapū on freshwater allocation at the regional or local scale. There is no acknowledgement of potential conflicts of interest to arise under such an arrangement.

Parker rejects calls to delay RMA reforms

Reflecting comments from Minister David Parker that the government remains determined to progress reform, the Ministry for the Environment says the bills will become law in mid-2023. The House will rise on 31 August 2023, providing only a small window of time to pass the Bills into law.

Nats promise to repeal

National promised to repeal the legislation if elected. Its forthright objections are summarised in this extract from its concluding comment:

The bills fail on almost every front. They are anti-democratic. They disregard fundamental property rights. They will lead to extensive, time-consuming, and costly litigation. They will increase bureaucracy. They put at risk our climate goals. They will likely increase the costs, time, and uncertainty of resource consents. We cannot support these bills”.


The NZ Taxpayers Union has completed a tour of the country to raise awareness of the legislation. If you didn't make it along, you can watch a recording of the Invercargill meeting at the URL below:

We can only win this fight with people-power. Here are several suggestions of actions we can take to support this initiative.

  • Contact your councillors and Mayors to express your concerns.

  • Sign and share the HANDS OFF OUR HOMES petition hosted by the Taxpayers’ Union.

  • Buy and display in a prominent place a STOP CENTRAL PLANNING COMMITTEES banner or yard sign.

Further reading

New Zealand Taxpayers' Union media release: RMA Replacement Bills Need To Go Back To Public Consultation


Commentary on Natural and Built Environment Bill Government Bill as reported by the Environment Committee 


Go back to the July 2023 newsletter


Update on Resource Management replacement legislation

Both the Natural & Built Environment and the Spatial Planning Bills are set to become law in the coming weeks. As we pointed out in previous articles, Labour’s new resource management regime is far worse than the current system. Worse in that it will diminish local voices, reduce democratic accountability, increase uncertainty, and embed inequitable rights based on race.  Continue reading

Report on the Constitutional Kōrero 2022 conference

A conference to discuss the progress of formal constitutional recognition of indigenous peoples in their respective countries was held at the University of Auckland on 21-23 November. The Constitutional Kōrero 2022: Transforming New Zealand’s Constitution conference brought together indigenous lawyers and academics from New Zealand, the Pacific, North America, Australia, Asia, Latin America, Greenland, Scandinavia and Africa. Continue reading

Resource management law replacement a can of worms!

The first two of three new Acts to replace the Resource Management Act 1991 – the Spatial Planning Bill and the Natural and Built Environment Bill – passed their first reading in November and are open for submissions until the 5th February 2023. Continue reading

Pharmac to change drug funding priorities

The Government’s key driver for its current health sector reforms is to secure better and “more equitable outcomes for all New Zealanders, but in particular for Māori, Pasifika, disabled people, and other priority populations.”  An emphasis on equity of outcome forms much of the focus of the Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Bill, which will come into effect on 1 July 2022. We have previously covered the new legislation in PAE ORA - THE RADICAL CHANGE TO OUR HEALTH SYSTEM Continue reading

The 'decolonisation' of civics and citizenship education

“The definition of ‘civics’ must also be broader than simply liberal democratic notions premised on the idea of indivisible sovereignty. The definition must look beyond the existing constitutional arrangements and carefully incorporate Indigenous constitutionalisms and aspirations”  - NZPSA Civics Citizenship and Political Literacy in Aotearoa New Zealand: A Public Discussion Paper Continue reading

Loss of local control but greater role for iwi/hapū in resource management

Your chance to have a say on the preliminary draft of the Natural and Built Environments Act - one of three to replace the RMA - is running out fast. This opportunity closes in 2 days’ time - at 11:59 pm on Wednesday 4th August. There is not much in the preliminary draft of the Government’s proposed resource management reforms that will meet the stated aim of reducing the cost and time taken to consent projects or simplify the rules for building houses. On the contrary, rather than simplify some of the proposals will add to the complications.  Continue reading

Preferential treatment for iwi under proposed Fast Track Consenting Bill

We are asking for your help to fight against legislation currently being drafted by the Government which clearly discriminates in favour of iwi, while the rest of us would effectively be marginalized. The issue is urgent - the Government plans to push this legislation through by late June - under urgency and with minimal public input under the pretext of COVID-19. Continue reading

Action Plan for Healthy Waterways

Thank you to everyone who took the opportunity to make a submission on the Government’s 'Action for Healthy Waterways' discussion document. Around seventeen and a half thousand submissions were received, reflecting much interest in the proposals. From a democracy point of view, it is of great concern that several proposals point to the undermining of the democratic control of water, and include the intention to require local authorities to compulsorily include a vague and undefined set of values and interests in the management of the water bodies and freshwater ecosystems in their region. Continue reading

Plans to widen the scope of CVAs

It has been quite some time since we covered the issue of Cultural Values Assessments (CVA). This does not mean they are no longer an issue. To the contrary – the taniwha has been quietly working in the background, sharpening its teeth – as evidenced by reports on a project undertaken to research the effectiveness of the CVA process for influencing resource management and consenting in Auckland, and recommending ways to increase iwi/hapu involvement in the resource consent process. Continue reading

Resource Management Act to be reviewed – again!

Environment Minister David Parker has launched an "overhaul" of the Resource Management Act (RMA), seeking to cut complexity and costs and better protect the environment.  Continue reading