Parliament will today debate the committee stage of a Bill that is the second phase of the Government’s substantial reforms to the Resource Management Act (RMA), Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.
“This Resource Legislation Amendment Bill is an important part of the Government’s long-term programme to increase housing supply and affordability, support a growing economy and jobs, and improve environmental management. We completed the first phase of reforms in our first term but were unable to secure Parliamentary numbers in our second term. This Bill, containing 40 changes, is the most substantive change to the RMA since it became law 25 years ago,” Dr Smith says.
“The biggest changes to the law are in the content and way plans are developed. The current 80,000 pages of RMA plans and rules, or on average 1000 pages per council, are excessively complex and expensive. The process for writing a plan takes seven years on average. The new national planning standards will hugely reduce the bureaucracy and the new streamlined planning process will speed up the time it takes to write replacement plans.
“These reforms will reduce the number of consents required by thousands. Councils will have a new power to waive the need for consents for minor issues. A new 10-day first-tracked consent will be available. Boundary issues like building a deck will be able to be resolved by simply getting a neighbour’s consent. The gains from the changes will save homeowners millions of dollars in direct costs and delays.
“There are important environmental gains in this Bill. It is critical that management of natural hazards is added to the central principles of the Act. We need the national regulation-making powers to get stock out of our waterways. The provisions requiring offshore platforms to have decommissioning plans is important to ensuring taxpayers are not left with environmental liability.
“The Mana Whakahono ā Rohe/Iwi Participation Arrangements provisions will provide a better framework for councils to meet their existing consultation obligations. The provisions do not change councils’ decision-making rights on plans or consents. They simply provide a mechanism for councils to meet their obligations under sections six, seven and eight. Councils that have these arrangements are finding it is better to have iwi involved early in the process as it avoids delays and costs further down the track.
“This Bill has been eight years in the making. The Government has taken the time to get it right, and we look forward to it improving New Zealand’s environmental management and supporting jobs and growth while increasing our housing supply and affordability.”
Design standards and building laws will be reviewed in response to an investigation into structural damage to Wellington’s Statistics House in the Kaikōura earthquake, Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith says.
Dr Smith today released an independent panel’s findings into the performance of the building during the 14 November 2016 quake, focussing on its design and construction, and the land influences on it.
“The performance of Statistics House in the Kaikōura earthquake was unacceptable and could have caused fatalities. This quake was large and unusually long but a modern building like Statistics House should not have had life-threatening structural damage. The building was designed to the industry practice of the time but this did not fully account for the effects of beam elongation during an earthquake, an issue that was deficient in the Concrete Structures Standard at the time of the design.
“The design flaw is quite specific to highly ductile framed concrete buildings with pre-cast floor slabs and particularly those with multi bay frames. We need to follow up on similarly designed buildings through councils and engineering companies so that where it is a problem, it can be rectified. This has already been done in respect of Wellington as a consequence of the preliminary findings in Statistics House but now needs to be followed up elsewhere. We also need to amend the Concrete Structures Standard to ensure newly designed buildings are adequately designed to cope with beam elongation during long duration earthquakes. This will be done this year.
“A compounding factor was geological basin effects that are not well understood but which have also been observed in other earthquakes internationally. This is not to do with reclaimed land but the amplification of ground shaking in a basin. This phenomena is similar to the way sea waves respond to a wall in an enclosed bay. This is an area of seismic science that needs further research, particularly in respect of Wellington, and to be considered as part of a review of the Earthquake Actions Standard.
“There is a building law issue that arises from this report on which I have asked officials to report. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has limited powers to follow up on design deficiencies like those identified in this report beyond those specifically provided for following civil emergencies. This means MBIE cannot require building owners to follow up on these sorts of potentially serious technical problems. I have asked MBIE to report on whether additional powers are needed in the Building Act.
“New Zealand is at the cutting edge of international seismic design standards but we have not yet solved all of the potential ways a building can fail. Most buildings in Wellington performed well despite the ferocity of the Kaikōura earthquake. We need to take the opportunity following such earthquakes to learn as much as we can and to further strengthen our standards and systems to improve building safety for the future.
“These detailed issues over the performance of modern buildings are important for improving design standards but they should not divert attention away from the far more significant risk to life of older buildings. The Kaikōura earthquake was sufficiently distant from Wellington that the city did not get the dangerous high-frequency shaking that poses the greatest risk to life.
“The largest safety gains for Wellington are to be made in the initiatives requiring unreinforced masonry facades and parapets to be tied back over the next year and all earthquake-prone buildings under 34 per cent of Building Code to be upgraded under the new law coming into effect on 1 July.”
The Statistics House investigation report is available at http://www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/building-construction/safety-quality/statistics-house-investigation
The housing development at Point England is the sort of pragmatic response needed to overcome Auckland’s housing problems, Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith says.
“The Point England housing development will provide 300 more families with a warm, dry home, enhance the recreational facilities and space for the surrounding community, as well as help settle Ngāti Paoa’s treaty claim and provide a site for a marae.
“This is a choice between land for houses or cows. Eighteen hectares of this site have been grazed by cattle for 30 years. Twelve hectares are to be used for housing. The area of open space accessible for public recreation will be expanded with this development.
“Labour’s contradictory positions on housing and cows are odd. They demand more homes be built but then oppose one housing development after another. They want fewer cows because of concern about water quality and greenhouse gas emissions, except in central Auckland on prime land like at Point England.
“The Government has committed to spending every dollar it receives from sale of the land for the housing development in the community on things like enhancing the recreation, amenity and environment of the reserve and neighbouring Omaru Creek. The huge gains are not just in the 300 additional homes, but helping provide new capacity to accelerate the Tamaki redevelopment.
“The Government is developing housing on dozens of blocks of land and only using reserve lands where they are poorly used and where there is the opportunity to improve overall amenity, as at Point England and the Riccarton Racecourse reserve in Christchurch. It is hypocritical of Labour to oppose this Bill when they have supported reserve lands been used in other Treaty settlements. This Bill is the sort of pragmatic response we need to overcome Auckland’s housing problems."
The Government has welcomed today’s release of the OECD 2017 Environment Performance Review, saying it highlights New Zealand’s green credentials and the strong progress we have made over the past decade, as well as the challenges we need to address, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.
“This report highlights that New Zealand fares well in terms on environmental quality of life. We have good air quality, an exceptionally high proportion of renewable electricity, easy access to pristine wilderness and an advanced and comprehensive natural resource management system,” Dr Smith says.
“This report shows how far we have come over the past decade. We introduced environmental pricing on waste in 2009 and on greenhouse gas emissions in 2010. We have introduced new national policy statements in areas of freshwater management, urban development and coastal management, as well as national environment standards on air quality. We have also made important institutional changes with the creation of the Environmental Protection Authority, new laws regulating activities in New Zealand’s huge EEZ and the new Environment Reporting Act 2015.
“We also concur with the OECD assessment of New Zealand’s future environmental challenges of climate change, freshwater management, biodiversity, reducing the complexity of urban planning and transport funding reform. This report reinforces the importance of the significant work programmes the Government has under way in each of these areas.
“This environmental report card will help us sharpen our future direction and environmental aspirations, as well as learn from the experiences of other countries. I thank the OECD reviewers and the examining countries of Australia and the UK for their contribution to this thoughtful report.”
Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith has welcomed the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team’s first successful prosecution of a landlord for renting a substandard property, under the Government’s tenancy law reform passed last year.
“This prosecution is significant in that it is the first time the Government has pursued a landlord for failing to provide a warm, dry, safe home. Last year’s tenancy reforms enabled the ministry to directly prosecute landlords rather than relying on tenants to take an action in the Tribunal. The law change also introduced a requirement for smoke alarms, home insulation by July 2019 and strengthened tenancy protection when taking Tribunal cases over substandard rentals,” Dr Smith says.
Manurewa landlord Satya Silan has been ordered by the Tenancy Tribunal to refund $15,840 in rent and pay $750 in exemplary damages for renting an unconsented garage as a home to a family with a young child.
“The strong message to landlords from this prosecution is that properties should not be tenanted unless they are warm, dry and safe. I also encourage councils, welfare groups, student associations and others to pass on to the new Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team more cases of this sort, particularly those with vulnerable tenants.”
The Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team was established late last year following the passage of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act and has been provided with a budget of $2.6 million this financial year and $3.3 million next year. The team has received 242 complaints to date, found 26 involved no breach, reached a compliance agreement with landlords in 76 cases, provided advice to landlords in 55 cases and to date has lodged cases with the Tribunal in three cases involving 199 properties.
“It is not the intention of MBIE to prosecute in every case, but to improve compliance. Prosecutions are focused on the worst cases, where landlords have not acted in good faith or where landlords have a track record of poor compliance. We encourage tenants to generally take issues over substandard rentals themselves to the Tribunal, particularly with the added protections against retaliatory action provided in the 2016 reforms.
“The new Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team is performing a valuable role in improving the standard of New Zealand’s rental homes.”
The amount of water exported in bottles is so small that it is irrelevant to the important discussion on better managing New Zealand’s freshwater resources, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.
“We use a million times more water for irrigation, town water supply and industry than that for bottled export. Bottled water exports are such a small fraction that it is a distraction to the important debate about how New Zealand better manages its freshwater resources.”
New Zealand’s annual freshwater resource is 500 trillion litres of which 2 per cent, or 10 trillion litres, is extracted. Statistics New Zealand reports that last year 8.7 million litres of bottled water was exported, down from 9.8 million litres in 2015. This means bottled export is 0.000002 per cent of the total water resource or 0.0001 per cent of the total water extracted.
“There is a real fairness problem with charging bottled water for export and not other water users. It would be odd from a health perspective to be charging a company bottling water, but not charging for the company that makes fizzy drink or beer. Nor would it make economic sense to charge the company bottling water for export, but not the company using the water to produce wine or milk. There may be a better return for New Zealand with less environmental problems in exporting the water rather than spraying it on land, adding fertiliser and producing milk noting that each litre of milk takes an average 400 litres of water to produce. The argument that the water bottling company may be foreign does not hold water when many larger water users in other industries like dairying and wine also have overseas investment.
“Freshwater management in New Zealand does need to improve. We have introduced a requirement for Councils to set minimum flow requirements in our waterways and compulsory metering. This has resulted in a significant number of red zones where further water extraction is prohibited.
“A technical advisory group is working on how New Zealand can better allocate freshwater and will be reporting back to Government by year’s end. The key to reform will be ensuring it is based on sound science and good data.”
Legislation to improve environmental management, help increase housing supply and affordability, and support jobs and growth has passed its second reading in Parliament 61-59, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.
“The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill is the largest package of reforms to the Resource Management Act (RMA) since it was first passed 25 years ago. It contains 40 proposals that make significant changes to five different Acts.
“This reform is critical to addressing housing supply and affordability by making it easier, faster and less costly to create new sections. Section prices in Auckland have gone from $100,000 in 1990 to $530,000 today and are the core reason housing has become excessively expensive. It addresses this core issue by opening up land supply, reducing the time taken to get consents, reducing the cost of land subdivision and enabling the construction of infrastructure. Parties that are opposing this Bill are blocking the very changes that will make housing more affordable,” Dr Smith says.
This is the second phase of the Government’s resource management reforms, and the dozen significant provisions in the Bill include:National planning standards to reduce complexity and cost Streamlined planning process to improve responsiveness Discretion for councils to exempt an activity from consents Strengthening of requirements to manage natural hazard risks New 10-day consent category for minor activities New requirements for council to free up land for housing New provisions to enable stock exclusion from waterways New provisions requiring decommissioning plans for offshore platforms More generous compensation for land required for public works Better alignment with other Acts like Reserves, Conservation and EEZ Collaborative planning process to encourage community-led solutions Improved Maori participation arrangements
“The Maori Party has supported the Bill to this stage and we are continuing to work with them to ensure detailed changes as a result of the select committee process are consistent with their agreement with the Government. I will be meeting with the Maori Party co-leaders on ensuring we have got the detail right,” Dr Smith says.
“This second phase of the Government’s RMA reforms builds on the first, and will support the additional jobs, infrastructure and housing needed for a strongly growing and successful economy.”
Economic Development Minister Simon Bridges and Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith today announced that a tender has been awarded to Tonkin and Taylor to assess options for managing flood and earthquake hazards in Franz Josef.
“The Franz Josef area is a significant domestic and international tourist destination. This funding will assist the community and local businesses so they can make the best decisions for the town’s long-term development,” Mr Bridges says.
“The West Coast region has experienced 13 per cent growth in visitor spend over the year to January 2017. It is critical that the township protects its livelihood in the long term and continues to keep the region’s residents and visitors safe through effective hazard management.”
“Franz Josef is situated on an active fault line and adjacent to the Waiho River which is prone to flooding,” Dr Smith says.
“This investment recognises that State Highway 6 and Franz Josef play an important role in the regional and national economy. A GNS Science report commissioned by the West Coast Regional Council reviewed the area’s natural hazards and recommended that a risk management strategy be developed, including a thorough analysis of the options. The Government is supporting this next stage of work by Tonkin and Taylor.”
The work is supported by the Government’s Regional Growth Programme and involves the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment; the Ministry for the Environment; the Department of Conservation; the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management; and the NZ Transport Agency.
The tender process was led by the West Coast Regional Council. The value of the tender is approximately $200,000.
The work will be completed by the end of July 2017. Once the options have been fully assessed, the relevant agencies and the community will discuss next steps.
A new Great Walk through the Paparoa National Park to be built as a memorial to the 29 men who died in the 2010 Pike Mine tragedy can now proceed with the approval of a new Park Management Plan, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith announced today.
“The 65km Great Walk will provide access to the spectacular and diverse landscapes of southern Paparoa National Park. The track required changes to the Paparoa National Park Management Plan that have been approved by the New Zealand Conservation Authority. The track will be open to both trampers and mountain bikers. At the Punakaiki end, the popular Pororari River Track is proposed for walkers only, with mountain bikers provided with an alternative route via the southern end of the Inland Pack Track. Construction of the $10 million track is expected to start in late autumn and the Great Walk is due to open at the end of 2018.
“The families want the Great Walk to be an enduring memorial to their loved ones that brings lasting economic benefit to the West Coast. The families also see the track as a thank you to the West Coast community and to New Zealand for the support the families received following the mine tragedy.
“Paparoa Track is the name chosen by the Pike River Families Committee for the track between Blackball and Punakaiki, and the Pike29 Memorial Track for the 9km section of the Great Walk leading from the Paparoa Track to the Pike River Mine site,” Dr Smith says.
“The Paparoa Track includes 15km of existing track at its Blackball and Punakaiki ends and about 50km of new track needs to be constructed for the Paparoa and Pike29 Memorial tracks. The Department of Conservation (DOC) is working through the process to appoint contractors to carry out the work.
“Construction of the 20-bunk Moonlight Tops and Pororari huts on the Paparoa Track is planned to start next summer to take advantage of the better summer weather.
“DOC is working closely with Pike River Families Committee representatives on the design and development of the Great Walk and on the planning for an information centre at the Pike River Mine site.”
“I commend DOC staff, Ngāti Waewae, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, and the West Coast Tai Poutini Conservation Board for their excellent work in achieving the review of the park plan within 12 months. I also thank the New Zealand Conservation Authority for its decisions on the new Paparoa National Park Management Plan and their timely approval of it.
“The Paparoa Track is fantastic news for the West Coast, with multiple benefits. It adds to the West Coast’s tourism attractions and is the first addition to the Great Walk network since 1993. It is a fitting memorial to the 29 men lost. It will make a spectacular part of the West Coast more accessible. The $10m construction cost over the next 18 months will also help the local economy.”
The Labour Party’s claim that “the number of dwellings consented in January was down 5 per cent on where it was in January last year” is just plain wrong, Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith says.
“January dwelling consents were up both nationally (to 1752 January 2017 from 1695 January 2016) and in Auckland (to 512 from 506).
“The year to January 2017 also confirms ongoing growth nationally from the previous year (to 30,123 from 27,124) and in Auckland (to 10,032 from 9275).
“Phil Twyford is being tricky by excluding apartments and townhouses to get his erroneous figures. The definition of dwellings by Statistics New Zealand clearly includes apartments and townhouses. Our Government has been openly promoting more townhouses and apartments as part of our housing solution, and we welcome the stronger growth in their construction.
“This is just like the debacle over Chinese-sounding names, with Mr Twyford distorting the facts for political purposes.”