An important component of the Government’s economic agenda is ensuring New Zealand cities are internationally competitive. This means cities that enable their citizens to enjoy a great lifestyle and affordable housing; cities that are efficient for business, encourage investment and jobs; cities that are attractive for visitors to support New Zealand’s increasingly important tourism industry. It is particularly important our cities compare well with Australia where people and capital can move so freely.
The Resource Management Act is not working well in the built environment to achieve this goal. There is a mismatch between the purpose of the Act that barely mentions urban issues and the reality of the vast bulk of consents relating to subdivision, infrastructure and building limits. The complex system of multiple policy statements and plans is cumbersome and inefficient. It takes so many years to consult and resolve appeals that plans are out of date by the time they take effect. There has been a lack of coordination between central and local government over getting the right infrastructure in place at the right time. Poor quality decisions over land planning have contributed to excessive section prices and adversely affected housing affordability. Reform is overdue.
In January, the Government appointed two Technical Advisory Groups to review policy around urban design and infrastructure. They concluded that we need to strengthen the recognition of urban issues under the Resource Management Act, consolidate the number of plans that are required and better coordinate central and local government decision making around infrastructure. They also made 85 recommendations on improvements to deliver better urban environments and the infrastructure we need. Officials have refined these proposals into this discussion paper to enable public input prior to Government decisions.
These reforms need to be considered within the context of the Government’s broader Bluegreen agenda of seeking to better integrate economic and environment policy. In 2009 we passed the Resource Management (Simplifying and Streamlining) Amendment Act and this year embarked on a second phase of reform of which these urban design and infrastructure issues are part. A common theme in these changes is providing stronger central government leadership, reducing unnecessary bureaucracy and replacing lengthy litigation with more collaborative processes. We are about making the Resource Management Act work better for New Zealand.
The future shape, style and success of our cities is at stake. We look forward to your input.
Hon Dr Nick Smith
Minister for the Environment