“Instead of replacing the RMA with a property-rights based system that allows Kiwis to develop more and get things done, Labour is trying to pass a replacement that doubles down on the old RMA’s failures, with an extra helping of co-governance,” says ACT’s Environment spokesperson Simon Court.

“ACT is voting against Labour’s proposed replacements for the RMA, and would repeal them in Government. Labour is replacing an old dog with a far bigger monster, they should adopt ACT’s alternative property-rights based approach.

“Faced with a once in a generation chance to cut through restrictive planning rules, allow for sensible environmental regulation, and empower development of new infrastructure, the Government has elected for a plan that would add even more bureaucracy to the system.

“The driving principle of Labour’s Natural and Built Environments (NBE) Bill is “Te Oranga o te Taiao”, which means plans must incorporate the health of the natural environment; the intrinsic relationship between iwi and hapū and te taiao; the interconnectedness of all parts of the natural environment; and the essential relationship between the health of the natural environment and its capacity to sustain all life.

“This is a recipe for endless judicial hearings as people try to figure out what it means. Placing undefined relationships and interconnectedness at the heart of land and water management means that almost anyone claiming even the most indirect interest in someone’s property can have a say and drag any development into the courts.

“There is no explanation to how this will make houses easier to build or roads easier to fix.

“ACT has developed an alternative that addresses these concerns and creates a property rights based system where New Zealanders are free to make the best possible use of their property and our shared environment to live their best lives.

ACT’s plan includes:

  • A shift in principle on Resource Management to a property rights basis, where people can do anything that does not harm others’ enjoyment of property. It dramatically reduces the range of people who have an interest in someone else’s use of their own property.
  • A new Environmental Protection Act (EPA) that will allow people to do what they like on their land unless specifically prohibited under the Act. Discharges to common property will be forbidden unless specifically allowed under the Act. Such discharges will be managed under one of two regimes; freshwater, or other discharges, noting the special importance of freshwater.
  • The freshwater regime will involve local councils deciding on acceptable environmental limits in consultation with their community. This decision making should be based on clearly demarcated, scientifically measurable parameters. Within these measures, property owners will be able to trade their permits. This approach is a far more localised and flexible way of achieving cleaner freshwater than the current command and control approach.
  • Non-freshwater pollution will be managed by two regimes, one for high risk activities, and another for leakage. A regime of clean-up bonds being required for high risk activities, so that the taxpayer is not left carrying the can for clean-up costs. Leakage, such as ground water pollution, will be managed using processes based on the tort of nuisance.
  • Urban development would be managed under a separate Urban Development Act (UDA). The UDA would set out three processes for streets or neighbourhoods to negotiate up their zoning either by consensus, bilaterally, or unilaterally. This introduces more control for property owners, while allowing cities to organically intensify.

“If we want to get cheaper goods to market and more houses built for the next generation, we need to reduce government interference and allow Kiwis to maintain property rights. That is the only way we will realise our economic potential.”

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