< August 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. 

Debate during the second reading of these two bills shows this is no accident. Rather, it is an intentional act to push a racialized ideology, whereby the Government and Māori are separate groups in partnership with each other, and that Māori have specific rights not available to other citizens.

Centralised control = the loss of local voices and democratic accountability

The government’s reform package shifts all land use planning away from local government (city and district councils) to 16 new regional entities. Although local communities may have an elected representative on the Regional Planning Committee, the voice of local communities on local issues will be severely diluted under this centralised regional planning structure. 

While ratepayers will provide the funding for these committees, they will act independently of local government. There is no requirement for members of the committees to seek prior authority for their decisions from their appointing bodies.

Decision-making at arms’ length from local communities means it will be near impossible for citizens to hold the members of these powerful committees to account via the ballot box. And yet, they will have the authority to set rules that govern many aspects of our lives.

To exacerbate this loss of democratic accountability, each committee will have a minimum of two Māori members appointed by iwi and hapū groups. Environment Minister David Parker disingenuously claims there will be no co governance in the RMA reforms saying "The Government is not proposing 50-50 co-governance. Regional planning committees will have a legal minimum of two Māori representatives. Local councils and Māori in a region can then agree on whether they want more [on each Committee]”. However, in making this statement, Mr Parker is not making allowance for the provision requiring anyone exercising powers, functions, or duties under the Act to give effect to the principles of te Tiriti. Partnership is often promoted as one of the principles of the Treaty, and the partnership concept is increasingly being manifested as 50:50 co-governance arrangements. Indeed, a recent Waitangi Tribunal report recommended, in relation to the Regional Planning Committees, that “all the claimants and interested parties agreed that the composition of the committees should be on a co-governance 50:50 basis”.

As Ray Deacon, New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union, writes in ‘Replacing the Resource Management Act 1991

“The potential for 50 per cent of committee members to be unelected, the ability for the Minister to make an appointment to each RPC, [Regional Planning Committee] and the directions that can be given through te Oranga o te Taiao statements and by the National Māori Entity will significantly undermine democratic accountability”. 

‘Loose as a goose’ provisions are going to be a nightmare

The proposed legislation fails three key principles of the rule of law - certainty, equality, and clarity. This problem begins with the NBE bill’s overarching purpose statement, which introduces vague and puzzling concepts without any clear definition.

Dr Bryce Wilkinson of the NZ Initiative writes in his commentary When a Bill’s objective is vague, its provisions are rudderless’.

“The recommended NBE Bill looks as unworkable and misguided as its earlier version.
The problems start with the NBE Bill’s purpose statement. It does not identify any problem in the community for which the Bill is the remedy. Its stated purpose, “to uphold te Oranga o te Taiao”, is unfathomable. We are not told who is not upholding it, why not, or why it matters.
The meanings it is given are as all-encompassing as motherhood and apple pie. Who decides what is the “health of the environment”, meaning everything inside and outside our homes and all our relationships with each other? And how does it help to say its meanings include “the interconnectedness of all parts of the environment”?
The courts will likely spend a decade fathoming the unfathomable”.

An additional complication is the obligation that the regional committees “must have particular regard to te Oranga o te Taiao statements, with the loose definition being: “any statement prepared by an iwi or hapū of a region to express their view on how te Oranga o te Taiao can be upheld at the regional and local levels”. This obligation is completely new to New Zealand law and is likely to cause significant confusion and potential legal disputes. 

“[te Oranga o te Taiao] is defined to include the relationship between iwi and individual hapu and the environment. It places untested, undefined and unpredictable race-based considerations at the centre of the planning process”
– Roger Partridge, The New Zealand Initiative

A further provision likely to lead to litigation

Another area fraught with uncertainty is the provision that "All persons exercising powers and performing functions and duties under this Act must give effect to the principles of te Tiriti." When select committee members considering submissions on the bills asked officials to define the principles, they were told that there is no formal definition of the principles and that the principles of the Treaty are evolving. As National M.P. Scott Simpson pointed out during the select committee stage - this provides very little confidence or certainty to anybody wishing to rely on this piece of legislation.

Informing the public about this very important issue

The government’s proposed replacement to the Resource Management Act has largely flown under the radar - there has been very little coverage in the mainstream media, and certainly no in-depth analysis by the media. Mindful of this, the NZ Taxpayers’ Union has been vigorously campaigning against these bills, conducting a tour throughout the country to alert as many people as possible to what the Government is planning for resource management. You can listen to a recording of the Invercargill presentation HERE.

To further spread the word, the TU Deputy Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, recently released a video outlining the problems with the proposed reforms and why they are destined to be a costly failure. 

Please take a moment to view, then share the link with your friends and family: 


To help further raise public awareness:

  • Talk to your friends, family, and workmates,
  • Live on a busy road? Please put up a banner,  
  • Or if you have street facing windows, put up a core flute sign. 

Click here to buy a banner and a coreflute sign.

We have covered this issue in previous newsletters. See:

- December 2022 Resource management law replacement a can of worms!

- July 2023 Full steam ahead on RMA replacement legislation 

Also see ‘Sweeping changes in resource management law underway’ published in the elocal online magazine


Go back to the August 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. 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

Submission on the Natural and Built Environment Bill

Below is a copy of our written and oral submissions on the Natural and Built Environment Bill and Spatial Planning Bill. Continue reading