Designing a future-focused resource management system

Published: Tue 26 Jul 2016 10:21 AM
Designing a future-focused resource management system
A proposed resource management system with an emphasis on early decision-making and placing greater value on natural eco-systems was launched at the Local Government New Zealand 2016 Conference today.
LGNZ has released Planning our future, an eight point programme of action designed to address a range of important issues with New Zealand’s resource management system with the aim of furthering discussion about what would best suit the country’s needs in the coming decades.
LGNZ President Lawrence Yule says New Zealand is facing a period of significant change, including adapting to climate change and managing scarce natural resources, and after many years of ad hoc tweaking the system struggles to meet current needs.
“Our resource management system needs to be able to address challenges into the future,” Mr Yule says.
“We are making the case for comprehensive reform to address pressing issues with the system, such as the lack of integration across key planning statutes, and the need for a stronger strategic connection between central and local government.”
“We have also proposed more challenging reform that requires a different way of thinking about and valuing our environment and natural resources, which will mean we are better placed to deal with the big challenges that lie ahead,” Mr Yule says.
The action plan was developed following a review of the current system by a “blue skies” reference group chaired by Otago Regional Council Chair Stephen Woodhead, who is also Chair of LGNZ’s Regional Sector and its Environmental Policy Advisory Group. LGNZ released the discussion document in December 2015.
You can read more about the reference group and the discussion document online.
The Advisory Group’s Chair Stephen Woodhead says New Zealand’s current resource management system undervalues natural ecosystems and the importance of resilience in decision-making, and as it stands now will struggle to cope with the big shifts we face in the coming 30 years.
“Currently it takes too long to agree plans and it is too costly to gain permissions to use land and develop resources and infrastructure. At the same time some environmental trends are still declining,” Mr Woodhead says.
“On those two counts the system we have now is not delivering. There are some good features in the Resource Management Act and we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but some of the current amendments need to be reconsidered.”
To make the necessary improvements LGNZ is advocating for a multi-stakeholder process for developing the future shape of New Zealand’s resource management system.
“Decisions need to be made as close as possible to the people they affect. This is an area that demands responsiveness to community values so we need a broad church of stakeholders involved in this work,” Mr Yule says.
The LGNZ Conference 2016 is being held in Dunedin from 24-26 July. You can find Planning our future here.
The eight point plan is grouped by three main objectives
Integrate resource management decision-making across domains and enhance the strategic connection between central and local government
• enable a vision to be set for a geographic area that provides certainty about the outcomes envisaged for that area, for example in areas of high growth;
• create opt-in special economic zones that will enable localised resource management solutions;
• enable councils to work with the Government to resolve local issues of national importance, for example water quality or bio-diversity.
Lay the groundwork necessary for us to be confident that resource management decisions will be grounded in evidence and be transparent
• develop a system to evaluate the performance of the resource management system;
• introduce standard tools to assess benefits and costs of resource management decision making;
• introduce standard methods to account for use of soil, freshwater, air and biodiversity. We need a comprehensive understanding of what resources are being ‘drawn down’.
Orient our programme of action by putting in place a resource management system to deliver better decisions and create economic incentives that encourage greater environmental stewardship
• ensure resource management decisions are made with clear environmental bottom lines and identify ‘go’ and ‘no go’ areas;
• develop a resource charge that recognises the public nature of the resource while ensuring there remains an incentive for private sector investment in resource extraction and use.

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