New Zealand's law that sets out how the country's resources are managed is being overhauled "to cut complexity and costs and better enable urban development".
The Government launched the overhaul of the Resource Management Act (RMA) today, saying its environmental outcomes were "disappointing" and it had contributed to the housing crisis.
Environment Minister David Parker said it was "unacceptable for this cornerstone law to be underperforming in a country that values protection of the environment while properly housing its people".
"While not the sole cause of the housing crisis, planning rules are partly to blame. Environmental outcomes have been disappointing. Freshwater quality has been going backwards."
He said "ad hoc patch-ups and work-arounds are not the answer, we need a thorough overhaul of the law".
"Our aim is to produce a revamped law fit for purpose in the 21st century that will cut complexity and cost while better protecting our environment."
The overhaul will be led by retired Appeals Court Judge Tony Randerson. The experts will give their proposals for reform by mid-2020.
Terms of reference include removing unnecessary complexity from the RMA, strengthening environmental bottom lines, recognising housing/urban development/infrastructure plans as important, considering the ability to restore natural environments if they have been damaged, ensuring the RMA is equipped to deal with climate change issues, and ensuring Māori have a role in the process.
National housing spokesperson Judith Collins, who had been calling for reform of the RMA, said the independent review needed “to usher in meaningful changes that will break down barriers to getting things built in this country”.
“The fact the Government has worked out it can't get its own KiwiBuild developments going without changing the rules shows just how bad it is for everyone else.
“The RMA stops things from being done quickly. People can fulfil every requirement put to them by councils and still go through a long-winded and expensive process.”
Ms Collins said she was concerned the Government had left the work too late in the electoral cycle to act on it.
“The law has become extremely tied up in red tape. It's an incredibly complex area that needs to return to what it was to begin with: enabling legislation.
“We are open to working with the Labour-led Government on this reform if it can present sensible solutions that will deliver New Zealand the infrastructure it needs.”