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'Evolution or revolution?' LGNZ launches resource management thinkpiece

15 Dec 2015

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) has today released its initial discussion document in its ‘blue skies’ review of the resource management system.

LGNZ announced the initiative at the beginning of September, establishing a cross-sector group of experts and practitioners to undertake a first principles review of New Zealand’s environmental management framework.  A final report will be published during 2016.

LGNZ President Lawrence Yule said the thinkpiece explores whether continued evolution of the current resource management system is the best approach or whether a more fundamental reform is needed.

“LGNZ believes there is a broad consensus that inaction is not an option and that change is necessary.  Whether that change is evolutionary or revolutionary is what we’re addressing in this review,” said Mr Yule.

The thinkpiece has uncovered the following themes:

  • The system needs to be capable of operating successfully in a context that is dynamic and different from the one in which the present system was designed – in particular it needs to be flexible and adaptive.
  • Any changes need to capitalise on the trend towards increasingly participatory process which rely on the availability of quality data and the ability to translate and communicate it to lay audiences, moving from regulator to trusted advisor, interpreter and facilitator.
  • The system has to be capable of facilitating the achievement of particular outcomes, not just the avoidance, remediation or mitigation of adverse effects.
  • The capacity and capability of local authorities, the courts, central government agencies, sector groups and NGOs needs to be developed to match the current and future needs and demands of the system including measures to guide implementation.
  • If it is to address current shortcomings, the resource management system has to be more than merely a platform for resolving disputes.  It must be capable of aligning the efforts of communities, government and business towards achieving outcomes that advance common interests.
  • The lack of alignment between core components of the resource management system needs to be resolved to reduce duplication of process and to assist the alignment of strategy, planning and funding – particularly in urban areas experiencing growth pressure.

Since LGNZ announced its resource management review, the Productivity Commission has also commenced a review of the New Zealand’s urban planning and resource management system.

“I am excited that we have taken the lead on this.  LGNZ’s discussion document will make a very valuable contribution to the current debate over New Zealand’s resource management framework,” said Mr Yule. 

“It highlights the pressure points within the current system and provides a roadmap for the discussion around what New Zealanders want from a resource management regime,” said Mr Yule.

Mr Yule said a blue skies review of New Zealand’s resource management system highlights the question of whether, after 25 years and repeated experiments and amendments, the Resource Management Act (RMA) is still fit for purpose. 

“While we welcome the recently announced changes to the RMA, it is time for some blue skies thinking about what a fit for purpose resource management regime could look like,” said Mr Yule.

“The timing of the LGNZ thinkpiece is propitious, landing as it has in the middle of a good deal of discussion on these issues – and we look forward to a significant response to the questions it poses.” 

LGNZ’s thinkpiece A ‘blue skies’ discussion about New Zealand’s resource management system can be accessed here. (PDF 1.62 MB)

LGNZ is seeking submissions on its paper, which will be open until 19 February 2016.