Study prepares for RMA shake-up

(Published on 28th June 2017)

A major review of New Zealand’s environmental management system has been launched in anticipation of fundamental reform of the Resource Management Act.

The Environmental Defence Society review launched today, New Zealand’s Resource Management Law: the Next Generation, is made possible by $356,000 of New Zealand Law Foundation funding. The 18-month project will study New Zealand experience and international best practice in environmental management law and make evidence-based recommendations for change.

EDS CEO Gary Taylor says that a back-to-basics reform of the Resource Management Act and related legislation is inevitable regardless of who wins this year’s general election. The EDS review will ensure high-quality thinking is done in advance to help shape the new regime.

‘The RMA was world-leading when enacted 26 years ago, but New Zealand is now a very different place – changing demographics, growth pressures and reaching environmental limits mean that a fundamental rethink is needed,” Gary says.

“Now that the latest RMA amendments have been enacted, the National-led Government or any new government post-election is likely to launch a major reform initiative in 2018, possibly involving a royal commission or similar. We want to hit the ground running with some properly researched and evidenced ideas.” Gary says.

EDS has a strong track record of research and analysis promoting good environmental governance. The Law Foundation has backed a series of focused EDS think-pieces in recent years, including Vanishing Nature, a 2015 book highlighting the plight of New Zealand’s threatened species.The well-publicised EDS reports have attracted favourable attention from policy makers. Recommendations for better compliance and enforcement in the latest EDS publication, Last Line of Defence, are being adopted by government agencies.

The progression of recent EDS reports has built the foundation for a rethink of the whole system. 

Often funding will proscribe the kind of outcome that might be sought, but the Law Foundation adopts an open-minded approach that encourages creative, properly researched and innovative thinking. Law Foundation Executive Director Lynda Hagen says that, as an independent charitable trust, the Foundation is uniquely well-placed to support projects of this type.

“As New Zealand’s major funder of independent legal research, we have a strong track record of supporting projects that contribute to long-term policy development. The EDS project is a classic example - it’s preparing the ground for major reform that’s not happening tomorrow, but is not far down the track.” Ms Hagen added.


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