Te Ara Tauiwi mo te Taiao

Tauiwi pathways for the environment

Useful Links:

 

 

 

 

Ministry for the Environment’s guide to Resource Management Act
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The Resource Management Act
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Having input into Regional and District Plans (and Regional Policy Statements) is a key way for iwi/hapū to bring their values and concerns to the table. This can be done by • Being consulted during the development of the plan or policy statement (this is legally required under the RMA) • Making submissions on proposed plans and policy statements, and appearing at hearings • Developing your own Iwi/hapū Management Plan, which must be taken into account by the Council in developing its plan

The introduction of the Resource Management Act (RMA) 1991 was revolutionary in many ways:

  • It was the first piece of environmental legislation in the world to adopt the sustainability concept.
  • It also signalled a move away from centralised ‘top-down’ decision making to localised decision making. The Act acknowledged that there are many stakeholders with an interest in our environmental resources and that the conflicts naturally arising between them are best managed at a local level**.

Despite this there has been much criticism (see our section on Collaborative Planning). However, while the RMA might not be perfect, it does give many opportunities for iwi/hapū to have input into resource management decision-making.   It sets out the law for managing most resources (land, freshwater, sea, air).  The main things it doesn’t control are the fish (covered by Fisheries laws), archaeological sites (covered by the Historic Places Act) and what happens on Conservation lands.

Under section 31 of the RMA, territorial authorities are responsible for integrated management of the effects of the use, development, or protection of land and associated natural and physical resources of the district. Under section 30 of the RMA, regional councils are responsible for management of issues related to air, water, natural hazards, soil and the coastal marine area.

In the past, regional and territorial authorities within the same area have produced separate regional policy statements, regional plans and district plans. However, the 2013 Resource Management reforms include a proposal to require councils to have only one resource management plan in each region. This plan will follow a national template that will include standard terms and conditions.

More information about this proposed direction is available here: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/rma/improving-our-resource-management-system-discussion-document.pdf (pages 41-47)

This discussion document also includes a proposal to enable more effective iwi/Māori participation in resource management planning. Pages 65-67 of the above document state that where a council does not have an arrangement in place with local iwi it would be required to establish an arrangement that gives the opportunity for iwi/Māori to directly provide comprehensive advice during the development of plans. The arrangement would need to allow iwi to provide advice on proposed policy ahead of council decisions on submissions, with this advice having statutory weight under the RMA.

While this approach has not yet been finalised in legislation, the development of one plan in each area over the next few years, and the statutory role for Maori in that planning process, is likely to be an important opportunity for future iwi/Māori involvement in resource management.

Iwi, hapū and whanau may also be consulted on individual resource consent applications if they are considered by the Council to be an affected party under the RMA, or if they have set up other arrangements with councils to be sent copies of the applications.  Different iwi have different ways of dealing with these – some have set up a centralised process so that all applications come to the one office, while others get them sent out to kaitiaki for the area of the application, and some do both.

It is really useful to have a good process to check whether an application will impact on resources and values.  If you have your own iwi/hapū planning sorted then it makes this much easier.  You can also request that the applicant funds a Cultural Impact Assessment to help explain the effects of the proposal.  Negotiating directly with the applicant for changes to the proposal can be a really good way to solve problems in advance.  One group developed a Cultural Management Plan which is also linked to the property title via a Consent Notice so that future owners have to abide by it as well.

If an agreement can be reached with the applicant that the iwi/hapū is happy with, they can sign a formal ‘affected party’ approval.   If not, then the proposal may be publicly notified for submissions and end up in a hearing.  Ideally the hearing panel will have Māori hearing commissioners, or at least the members will have gone through the ‘Making Good Decisions’ training (See MfE website) which includes some training in cultural awareness.  You can request that the hearing be held on a marae, and if there is sensitive information to be shared the public can be excluded from the hearing and restrictions put on how the information is used.  Finally, if consent is granted it is important that the conditions of consent address the issues of concern to iwi/hapū.

If the iwi/hapū is not happy with the decision they can appeal it to the Environment Court.  At this stage it is a good idea to get legal advice, as the Court can award costs against appellants if it decides that their appeal is frivolous or vexatious.

**(See Pennington J (2013) Collaborative Planning: Do we need flexible legislation and regulation for fresh water planning? Ministry for the Environment: Discussion Document. Wellington New Zealand)
Key idea: It is cheaper and less time-consuming for everyone if solutions can be negotiated at the start of the process – often the best solutions are found in discussion with applicants – ideally on the land itself.

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