Submission in Respect of Proposed Changes to the Resource Management Act
COMMENTS ON PROPOSAL TO ABOLISH SECTION 106 OF THE RESOURCE MANAGEMENT ACT
Section 106 of the Resource Management Act 1991 requires the consent authority to refuse subdivision approval if the land is, or is likely to be, "...subject to material damage by erosion, falling debris, subsidence, slippage, or inundation from any source..." unless it is satisfied that appropriate mitigation provisions have been or will be made. This section bears significant similarities with s274 of the Local Government Act 1974, which it replaced, and falling debris is the only additional hazard that has been included. Development on individual sections was previously controlled under s641A of the LGA as amended (1981), and this is now covered in broadly similar terms under s36 of the Building Act 1991. Historically, therefore, both subdivision and section development have been regarded as successive stages within the framework provided by the District Plan (or Scheme). It appears that abolition of s106 of the RMA is now proposed on the grounds that it is unduly prescriptive and restrictive, and that such matters can be dealt with in district plans.
The Geological Society of New Zealand (GSNZ) is opposed to any removal of s106 of the RMA at this time for the following reasons:-
- there is a logical progression from District Plan - Subdivision Plan - Section development, and the scale at which hazards can be identified, zoned and/or mitigated increases and becomes more site-specific at each stage;
- there is insufficient detail within most District Plans to provide adequate controls on land subdivision, and the requirement for hazard evaluation at the subdivision consent stage is entirely appropriate for most sites;
- the fact that s36 of the Building Act 1991 (and formerly s641A of the LGA) allows building on so-called "hazard-prone" or "marginal" land requires that such geotechnical constraints be adequately identified and evaluated at the subdivision consent stage;
- only with such knowledge can the territorial authority give sensible approval for the overall development, and specify particular conditions that might reasonably be required as part of the subdivision consent;
- it is too late for the TA to apply conditions to mitigate hazards at the building consent stage if land subdivision has already been approved via inadequate district plan assessment; and
- it is not feasible to provide sufficient geotechnical detail for administration of land subdivision at district plan scales of 1:10,000 or smaller, and engineering geology mapping at scales of 1:2000 or larger are necessary.
In light of the above comments GSNZ recommends as follows:-
- that s106 of the RMA be retained and strengthened by inclusion of alluvion and avulsion as specific hazards to be identified and/or investigated (as for s36 of the Building Act 1991) at the subdivision consent stage;
- that some amendments to s106 of the RMA may be required as certain Councils are presently requiring total design before granting subdivision consent, and this is both unreasonable and causing significant time delays; and
- that guidelines be developed to ensure that TAs do not unreasonably delay subdivision approval applications by requiring total design of mitigation measures when geotechnical feasibility of a proposed development has been clearly established.
- For further enquiries on this submission, contact the President, Dr Jarg Pettinga