General policy statement
The Hurunui/Kaikōura earthquake of magnitude 7.8, northeast of Culverden, New Zealand that occurred on 14 November 2016, and its subsequent aftershocks have caused significant damage to land, coastal areas, buildings, and infrastructure.
The earthquakes require a number of legislative measures to facilitate recovery. Amending aspects of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) is one of the measures that will help ease regulatory requirements, while still safeguarding the environment.
Accordingly, this Bill seeks to modify the legislative constraints in the RMA in light of the emergency situation to ensure that efforts can be put into recovery, while providing that the underlying purposes of the RMA are met.
Extending emergency timeframes under RMA
Significant damage to infrastructure requires emergency works to be undertaken by consent authorities, requiring authorities, lifeline utility operators, and others with financial responsibility for the work or persons operating under the state of emergency.
The standard timeframes within the RMA for emergency works will put unreasonable pressure on those undertaking the emergency works to give notice and to apply for resource consents. This process could distract from the recovery effort. The Bill temporarily increases the time-frames to enable the earthquake response to be prioritised. Specifically, the Bill proposes to—
increase the timeframes for giving notice to a consent authority that works have been undertaken from 7 days to 40 working days:
increase the time within which any resource consent required must be applied for from 20 working days to 120 working days:
relax the requirements to inform occupiers of land about entry for emergency work where occupiers are no longer present, and state the manner and form for a notice about that entry and any works:
include an enabling power for the Minister responsible for the administration of this Act to add, via Order in Council, additional local authorities if necessary or desirable following a significant aftershock of, or other significant event relating to, the Hurunui/Kaikōura earthquakes after the commencement of the legislation:
enable the temporary powers to be used until 1 April 2018.
Permitted activity status for emergency farming works
As a result of the damage caused by the Hurunui/Kaikōura earthquakes, there has been significant disruption to farming activities. In order to continue basic farming practice (for example, feeding and watering of stock), some farmers have had to replace and/or repair facilities on their land, for example, septic tanks and stockwater supplies. In some cases, they have had to breach the normal regulatory requirements of the district and regional plans to do this.
To enable land owners and occupiers to respond to significant effects from the earthquakes and in order to avoid, remedy, or mitigate the loss of life or injury to humans, loss of life or injury to animals, or serious damage to land or property, the Bill proposes to—
specify that such emergency farming practices are a permitted activity, provided they are proportionate to the adverse effect being avoided, remedied, or mitigated and will not cause significant adverse effects outside the boundaries of the property; and
require the owner or occupier to notify the council, within 40 working days, that the activities have been undertaken, but not to require retrospective consents; and
limit the enforcement of the activities to the relevant local authorities; and
enable these provisions to be used until 30 March 2017.
Restoration of Kaikōura harbours
The seabed around the North and South Kaikōura harbours has lifted significantly as a result of the earthquakes, meaning that it is no longer safe for ships to use the port. Reliable access to the Kaikōura harbours is necessary to ensure that critical supplies are able to be easily brought to Kaikōura by sea. The closure of the harbours also has significant economic effects for local businesses, including tourism and fisheries. The work required for harbour rehabilitation needs to be enabled without delay.
The restoration of the Kaikōura harbours is likely to commence under the emergency works provisions of the RMA. Under current RMA district and regional planning rules, applying for resource consents to restore the harbours could be difficult, either in advance of the activities or retrospectively if the works are carried out as emergency works. Some activities in some areas of the harbour are classified as non-complying or prohibited.
The Bill proposes to—
provide a mechanism by which the harbours may be restored to the extent necessary to allow its port facilities to be safely used while having as little impact on the marine environment and its flora and fauna as is reasonably practicable:
change the status of the activities needed to be undertaken to restore the harbour to “controlled”, unless the activities are already permitted in the relevant plan:
specify the type of rehabilitation works the legislation applies to:
require that before the use of emergency powers under the RMA amended by Part 1 of this Bill, consideration must be given to the environmental effects of the proposed works, including how the environmental effects on marine mammals and seabirds must be monitored and avoided, remedied, or mitigated as far as practicable:
provide for a limited consultation process with specified parties invited to make written comments within a 10-working-day period:
require the consent authority to prepare and consider a summary of the written comments before making a decision on the resource consent application and to make the summary and the consent authority’s responses to the comments publicly available at the same time as the decision on the consent application:
remove any opportunity to object to or appeal against these decisions:
limit enforcement action in relation to the works to the consent authorities concerned and to Minsters of the Crown:
provide for the provisions to be repealed on 1 April 2018.