Hamilton Mayor does not want to lose the local voice in the light of RMA


Paula Southgate, Mayor of Hamilton (Photo Provided)

Hamilton’s Mayor wants to keep a local voice in changes to how we manage our natural resources in New Zealand.

The Government recently revealed its replacement for the Resource Management Act (RMA) in the form of two pieces of legislation; the Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA) and the Spatial Planning Act (SPA).

The legislation sets out how the country will allow development and protect the environment in the future. Key features of the changes include clearer national directions, regional decision-making and spatial plans, and a bigger emphasis on embedding ‘Te Tiriti o Waitangi’ and the health and wellbeing of the environment into planning.

But Mayor Paula Southgate has serious concerns about the loss of local voices throughout yet another major reform, particularly for metro councils like Hamilton.

“As a tier-one metro city, we’re constantly asked to deliver to higher levels by Government across transport, housing and the environment, driven by legislation such as the NPS-UD. This reform is yet again overriding our excellent strategic planning, which is not acceptable to me,” Ms Southgate said.

“While we can all acknowledge the RMA is not fit for purpose in its current form and needs a facelift, that shouldn’t come at the expense of us being able to advocate for our community’s needs. We, as a fast-growing metro, have unique challenges that our smaller neighbours don’t, and we need to make sure they are properly considered” she said.

Hamilton City Council’s feedback on an exposure draft of the NBA released last year also raised issues with lack of funding for the plans, loss of local voice and placemaking, and what the role of local government will be when the plan-making functions are removed.

“We’ve got a widely respected approach in Waikato in terms of how we’ve partnered with central government and iwi to plan for growth and protect our environmental resources.”

Southgate named the Future Proof Strategy, Hamilton-Waikato Metropolitan Spatial Plan and other transport and wastewater business cases as examples of how the city has worked with its neighbours to deliver cross-boundary plans.

Ms Southgate said, “We’d hate to see the good work that’s been done be undermined by expensive bureaucratic processes, leaving us only one voice around a fairly large table.”

The legislation is expected to be introduced and passed before the end of this Parliamentary term in late 2023. Council expects it will have the opportunity to make a submission on the legislation as part of the Select Committee process.

The Government plans to repeal the Resource Management Act and enact three new pieces of legislation this parliamentary term. The Natural and Built Environment Bill and Spatial Planning Bill have been introduced to Parliament this month. The Climate Change Adaptation Bill is likely to follow in 2023 which addresses the complex issues associated with managed retreat, and funding and financing climate adaptation.

Ms Southgate had, on an earlier occasion, said that changes shouldn’t come at the expense of us being able to advocate for our community’s needs. She doesn’t want its work “undermined by expensive bureaucratic processes, leaving us only one voice around a fairly large table.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink correspondent based in Hamilton.

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