Resource Management Act Reform

August 23, 2023



green ferns

The Government has proposed repealing the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) and replacing it with new pieces of legislation that are designed to transform the way the environment is managed by speeding up and simplify planning processes, reducing costs, and delivering better outcomes for people and the environment.

The main changes are:

The Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA), which will be the primary law for land use and environmental regulation. It will focus on enhancing the quality of the natural and built environments, while enabling development within specified limits. It will also require local authorities to produce a single integrated plan for each region, instead of multiple plans under the RMA.

The Spatial Planning Act (SPA), which will set long-term strategic goals and facilitate the integration of legislative functions across different sectors, such as land use, transport, infrastructure and climate change. It will also require central and local government to work together to develop regional spatial strategies that align with national direction1.

Both of these bills recently had their third readings in Parliament and will shortly receive the royal assent and become law.

Climate Change

A third proposed statute, the Climate Change Adaptation Act (CAA), is intended to address the complex and distinctive issues associated with managed retreat such as funding, compensation, land acquisition, liability and insurance. This bill appears to be on a considerably slower track than the other two bills.

These reforms will affect agri-businesses in various ways, depending on the type and location of their activities. Some of the possible impacts that we see are:

• Agri-businesses will have to comply with the new environmental limits and standards set by the NBA, which may be more stringent than the current RMA provisions. This may require them to adopt more sustainable agriculture and farming practices, such as reducing water use, nutrient loss, greenhouse gas emissions, and biodiversity loss, and enhancing soil health and ecosystem services.

• Agri-businesses will benefit from the streamlined and simplified planning and consenting processes under the NBA, which will reduce complexity, uncertainty and delays. This will enable them to access land and resources more efficiently, plan for long-term growth and innovation, and reduce compliance costs.

• Agri-businesses will have more opportunities to participate in the strategic planning process under the SPA, which will set the direction for land use, infrastructure, transport and climate change across regions. This will allow them to influence the spatial allocation of resources, identify and address potential conflicts or synergies with other sectors, such as urban development, tourism, forestry and energy, and align their activities with national and regional goals.

• Agri-businesses will have to adapt to the effects of climate change and contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions under the CAA. This may require them to assess their exposure and vulnerability to climate risks, such as droughts, floods, pests and diseases, implement adaptation plans and actions, access funding and support from the adaptation fund, and report on their emissions and mitigation efforts.

If you would like to discuss any matters relating to these changes and how they may affect you and your business, please get in contact with us – we have the experts who can help you.