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RMA reform and managing the future impacts of climate change

The new legislation

Government plans to introduce three Bills to overhaul New Zealand’s resource management system. The reforms will repeal the Resource Management Act 1991 and replace it with:

  • Natural and Built Environments Bill (NBA) – requiring local government and mana whenua to form joint, regional planning committees to develop one NBA plan for each region. These plans will replace existing regional policy statements, regional plans, and district plans.
  • Strategic Planning Bill (SPA) - requiring local government, mana whenua and central government agencies to form joint committees to develop one long-term Regional Spatial Strategy for each region. These will identify areas that - are suitable for development; need to be protected; require infrastructure; and/or are vulnerable to climate change effects and natural hazards.
  • Climate Adaptation Act (CAA) - to help New Zealand better deal with climate change, particularly 'managed retreat' (the strategic relocation of communities or assets prone to natural hazards - like increased flooding or coastal inundation)

Select Committee hearings were held last year, following submissions on the first Exposure Draft of the Draft of the Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA). The draft NBA is only a partial bill, with much of the detail still to come. What’s been released is pretty consistent with the review of the RMA, known as the Randerson Report. More than 3,000 submissions on the Exposure Draft were received by the Environment Select Committee, including one from MPDC.

The next opportunity to give feedback will be later this year when the full Bill is introduced to Parliament, along with the Strategic Planning Bill. This is happening later than expected but the aim is still for the NBA and Strategic Planning Act to be passed into law before the 2024 central government election.

In addition, the Government is also working towards the introduction of the draft Climate Adaptation Act in 2023.

An overview of the proposed Resource Management System


Local priorities

A Local Government steering group made up of elected members and senior council leaders has been set-up to provide advice to government on the resource management reform programme. The group believes local needs and desires need to be reflected and included in the resource management plans.

The key proposals that are outlined in their draft report Enabling local voice and accountability in the future resource management system, include:

  • Local community priorities being part of the NBA plans and regional spatial strategies. It’s proposed that Statements of Community Outcomes (SCO) and Statements of Regional Environmental Outcomes (SREOs) are developed by Councils, their communities and iwi/hapū. Hapū/iwi can also create their own SREOs under the proposal.
  • Development of a National Spatial Strategy to make sure the Regional Spatial Strategies and NBA Plans deliver what they say they will. It would sit alongside the National Planning Framework and provide a consistent and clear view of government priorities, particularly what it’s investing in.

The local government sector provided feedback on the Steering Group’s proposals before the final report was presented to the Minister for the Environment.

Managed Retreat and National Adaptation Act

The Climate Adaptation Act is part of the Government’s resource management reform programme which will remove the Resource Management Act and replace it with new legislation. The Act will address the managed retreat (or relocation) of key assets, activities and sites of cultural significance to both Māori and non-Māori, within a certain timeframe.

This will raise different issues for individuals, whānau, and communities depending on where they are in New Zealand. The Government is keen to get people’s feedback to help shape the new managed retreat policy and the Act. Council will be looking to make a submission on the new act to ensure we have a say. Individuals will also be able to make direct submissions.

National Adaptation Plan

One of the things that will assist with managed retreat, and help New Zealand adapt to and live with the future impacts of climate change is the creation of a National Adaptation Plan (NAP).

The draft National Adaptation Plan will sit alongside the Emissions Reduction Plan and together they will lay out New Zealand’s overall response to climate change as we move to a zero-carbon, climate resilient future.

The Plan will focus on addressing the priority risks that were identified in New Zealand’s first national climate change risk assessment carried out in 2020. Priorities range from risks to coastal ecosystems, community wellbeing, potable water supplies and buildings. The assessment also identified risks from systems that don’t allow for uncertainty and change over longer timeframes.

The Ministry for the Environment is inviting feedback on the draft Plan until 3 June 2022. The consultation seeks feedback on a range of proposed actions to enable New Zealanders, communities, businesses and all levels of government to understand top priority climate risks and how to adapt.

Government wants to hear about how climate change is affecting you, potential impacts you are concerned about, actions you are taking and what other actions are needed. That feedback will help refine New Zealand’s first National Adaptation Plan, which will be published in August 2022. Feedback on managed retreat will help to inform policy development for the proposed Climate Adaptation Act. Read the consultation document and give your feedback.