The Government's proposed changes to the Resource Management Act are not so much a U-turn as a 'lane-change,' as even with the changes the RMA still proceeds in a direction that destroys property rights. This is minor tinkering, not major reform.
The proposed change allows the government to 'call in' projects of national significance and send them directly to the Environment Court, bypassing lower level hearings. This may help speed up a few large 'headline' infrastructure projects -- but God help Waikato farmers fighting Transpower's pylons' project, and as Federated Farmers has said before, "it's little, not large" [that] suffers most RMA pain." 'Little' projects, which constitute the bulk of outstanding RMA consent applications, will continue to suffer pain as the property rights of applicants are ignored.
A 'test' of these proposed reforms is perhaps to note that they do nothing to help the Western Springs speedway, organisers of which are in the High Court today arguing that they have existing use rights under the RMA. I wish them well but I'm not optimistic, since we've seen before that the RMA does nothing to protect the property rights of those facing complaints by those who 'came to the nuisance.'
The test for real RMA reform will be whether property rights can be introduced to the heart of the Act. I still say they can't -- the RMA still needs a stake through its heart.