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New freshwater law rushed through govt set to derail urban developments and throw future plans up in the air

New freshwater law rushed through govt set to derail urban developments and throw future plans up in the air

2020 – the year that keeps on giving! New legislation regarding freshwater management that came into effect on 3 September has provided a new curveball which has already had significant implications on urban planning and developments.

Essentially, the new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 has been brought in to improve degraded water bodies and avoid further loss or degradation of wetlands and streams. As such, part of the new requirements mean we can no longer apply to remove “natural wetlands”, making it virtually impossible for projects to go ahead which require their removal. While this appears to be more workable in a rural context, it’s unfortunately the urban side of things that will cop the biggest hit, putting many projects and developments at a standstill with some set to stop dead entirely.

While the intentions of the government are in the right place, and we absolutely agree that water and water quality should be protected, we feel as though the legislation is poorly worded and implemented and has unintended consequences for both sides.

Some of the resulting ramifications include:

1. The stopping of developments

– While everyone tries to get up to speed with what the new policy means, and due to the actual nature of the policy, many projects and developments will have to stop dead in their tracks.

2. Economic impact

– Ironically, this law that has been passed through a parliament facing pressure from a growing housing crisis, will likely drive house and land prices up even further.

3. Additional regulatory layers

– The legislation adds another level of complexity, and yet another step in the process of developers getting consent. This will add further delay and cost to the process.

In our opinion, which we know is shared with many throughout the whole industry, the law hasn’t been properly thought out – perhaps even rushed – and has been narrowly focused. No one in the wider industry is happy with the final outcome. It will protect areas that are low

value, while higher value areas will be lost due to poor wording. The inadvertent ripples will be felt right across the board.

As it currently stands, the team here at Woods are ready to give our clients the right planning and technical advice in order to proceed with current projects. We make no apologies that we are up front and honest with our assessments. This may result in changes to the design if there are serious constraints. In the case of due-diligence, we offer clear guidance about the potential risks and constraints resulting from this legislation. I guess for the moment it’s a bit of an ‘it is what it is’ situation which we are trying our best to guide our clients through. We’re going to see what plays out politically over the next 6-12 months, but ultimately, something will need to happen at the government’s end for the law to be both practical and sustainable, and meet the needs of all parties. For more information on the new policy: https://www.mfe.govt.nz/fresh-water/national-policy-statement/about-nps

For advice on this legislation, or what it might mean for you, please contact us. We’d be keen to have a chat and see how we can help.

Euan Williams

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