RMA reform must address ballooning infrastructure deficit

"The Resource Management Review Panel’s report released yesterday is a welcome step but more work is needed to address our ballooning infrastructure deficit," says New Zealand Infrastructure Commission, Te Waihanga Chief Executive Ross Copland.

Mr Copland says that despite good intentions, the RMA has often led to undesirable environmental, social and economic outcomes. "The slowing effect of the RMA on infrastructure investment over the last three decades has left a huge legacy for New Zealand. Even wastewater treatment facilities vital to the protection of our waterways and freshwater ecology have languished at the mercy of decade-long planning processes."

"New Zealand has inadvertently allowed process to trump progress and our communities are suffering the consequences. Te Waihanga is firmly of the view that a range of infrastructure solutions on both the supply and demand side are required. However, in many cases the RMA has made it very difficult to efficiently deliver built solutions."

"The RMA reforms need to be focused on better outcomes for New Zealanders. We cannot afford the social, economic or environmental costs of ongoing delays. And the way the planning industry currently operates imposes big productivity costs on the construction sector."

"It is encouraging to see reference to mandatory regional spatial planning focused on a 30-year timeframe," says Mr Copland. "This supports Te Waihanga’s view that we must start with long-term outcomes in mind, and communities and iwi need to be at the heart of this."

"The legislation governing infrastructure planning and delivery in New Zealand reaches beyond the Resource Management Act - it also includes the Local Government Act, Land Transport Management Act, Reserves Act, Conservation Act, National Parks Act, just to name a few.

"Our current complex planning system is a major driver of New Zealand’s infrastructure deficit because of the uncertainty and delay it creates. For regional spatial plans to address this, they need to be the vehicle for central government, local government, iwi, communities and the market to agree a long-term vision for their region. They need to agree and commit to areas for protection and development, make firm funding commitments, and hold all parties to account on delivering the outcomes."

Te Waihanga is currently working on its 30-year plan to lift infrastructure planning and delivery to a more strategic level to improve New Zealanders’ long-term economic performance and social wellbeing.

Te Waihanga made a submission on the Resource Management Reform Bill in February. The submission is available on Te Waihanga’s website(external link). You can also read an opinion piece(external link) on the topic, which Te Waihanga published in May.