RMA reforms leave no room for public appeals, warn commentators
Heavily curbed public appeal rights means that future decisions on subdivisions will be a “closed shop” if the proposed amendments to the Resource Management Act are voted in, warn several organisations.
The Select Committee’s report back on the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill on Monday, effectively “puts the private interests of the development community above the public’s interest” in sound environmental outcomes, says the Environmental Defence Society (EDS), a non-government organisation. “It is an alarming change that will have long-term adverse consequences for the environment”, warns its CEO, Gary Taylor.
Mr Taylor points out that the change is linked to other amendments limiting public notification and appeal rights. Within the proposed reform Bill, appeals on subdivision are now not generally available. “That removes an important check and balance in the planning system and reduces the role of the Environment Court”, says Mr Taylor.
The Resource Management Law Association (RMLA) has voiced similar concerns. “There will generally no longer be the right to appeal a decision by a council on subdivision, residential and boundary activity applications – whether from an applicant or a submitter. Local decision making on plans could be significantly undermined by the new and largely unfettered ‘streamlined plan process’”, said RMLA President Maree Baker-Galloway. These types of changes, she warns, threaten to undermine good quality and durable consent and plan making decisions.
According to RMLA, the removal of appeal rights will not address housing supply or affordability if decisions go against applicants, or if consents are granted subject to unworkable conditions that cannot be remedied on appeal. Removal of appeal rights further erodes access to justice for iwi, land owners, developers, neighbours and affected parties.
EDS’ Mr Taylor notes that this is especially problematical where resource consents, say for coastal subdivision on the Coromandel Peninsula, may have adverse environmental effects that need to be revealed by a public interest submitter. “Now such decisions will be a closed shop involving the developer and the council. That’s not good”, he said.