New government eyes RMA, Three Waters reforms for pre-Christmas scrap heap
The freshly-passed Resource Management Act (RMA) reforms look set to be first on the chopping block as the new coalition government settles into power.
Parliament was buzzing at the weekend with new ministers making the most of ‘moving day’; setting up their new Beehive offices.
Speaking at Friday’s announcement, incoming Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said his team “couldn’t wait to get stuck in”.
The new government intends to repeal the RMA and Three Waters reforms by Christmas, soon-to-be Finance Minister Nicola Willis said.
“We know those new laws have the potential to cause massive confusion. There’s a lot of officials working away on this so it’s important we stop them.”
The former Labour government passed the Natural and Built Environment and Spatial Planning Bills in August, replacing the Resource Management Act.
The quick timeframe to now dump the reforms has got some – including the Environmental Defence Society – worried.
Its chief executive Gary Taylor said the reforms wrapped up half a decade’s worth of work and completely scrapping them would be “revenge politics”.
“What’s been produced can’t be 100 percent bad. They’re throwing the baby out with the bath water. I would have preferred them to panel beat that law into their preferred shape.
“When I talk to them [National] there’s only half a dozen things that they can articulate that they’re concerned about. So it does seem extreme to just repeal it.”
The National-led coalition government has also promised to scrap the Three Waters reforms, also passed in August.
Manawatū mayor and co-chair of the Communities 4 Local Democracy group Helen Worboys cannot wait.
“Absolutely pleased to see that they’re keeping their promise. I understand there’s a ‘stop work’ order out already on the mandated water reform which is excellent because that means councils now know where we are.
“We’re not wasting any more time working on information with the National Transition Unit.”
It has been seven years since the campylobacter outbreak in Havelock North.
Three Waters was the former Labour government’s solution to improving water services.
Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said everyone wanted better services but the reforms were unaffordable for local bodies.
“We simply cannot afford to borrow any more money to pay for Three Waters infrastructure. That is the challenge for all councils in New Zealand and that is the challenge for all of us to meet the affordability of the Three Waters for our community.”
The RMA and Three Waters reforms may be repealed quickly but other policy areas – like tax cuts – will take longer.
Nicola Willis said the coalition government was committed to tax reduction and was already laying the groundwork for it.
“I’ve immediately asked for work to start on the programmes to help fund [tax cuts], including some of the revenue raising initiatives we proposed prior to the election; changes to the way commercial depreciation is treated, changes to the way immigration levies are funded and the way gambling is taxed.”
Willis said next month’s mini budget would include “a strong statement of intent”, laying out the government’s approach to the coming months.
After several briefings from Treasury officials over the weekend, she said the books were in worse shape than she had initially thought.
“The briefing from Treasury was sobering and what they also revealed to me is that there are some nasty surprises in the books. The outgoing government has left us with some significant fiscal risks; projects that look like they’re going to blow out and cost, and some some fiscal cliffs; programmes that there isn’t funding for the future for, that hasn’t been budgeted for, even though most people would expect those programmes are continuing.”
She and other ministers were being sworn in at Government House on Monday morning.