Reducing risk through the management of existing uses: tensions under the RMA

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Grace, E.S.; Frances-Hudson, B.T.; Kilvington, M.J. 2019 Reducing risk through the management of existing uses: tensions under the RMA. Lower Hutt, N.Z.: GNS Science. GNS Science report 2019/55. 131 p.; doi: 10.21420/27S5-E538


Many communities in New Zealand face risks from natural hazards that are either increasing due to climate change, or where new knowledge has revealed the hazard has greater probability, magnitude or likely impact. There are also situations where the potential consequences of a hazard event are increasing as a result of intensification of development. Local government agencies face the challenge of how to respond when an existing community faces a new level of risk that was not provided for when the development was established. In this situation land use planning offers a means to reduce risk by applying controls and restrictions on existing land uses, including extinguishing them entirely. The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) provides for the management of natural hazards through land use planning, however, to-date there have been few examples of local authorities using the RMA to reduce risk to existing developments by modifying existing uses. Local authorities are not merely driven by a requirement to respond to the content of the RMA but need the RMA to provide them with the tools and the guidance to act in a way that their obligations to community wellbeing and safeguard demand. This research examined three fundamental questions: (i) What are the options for managing existing use under the RMA for the purpose of risk reduction? (ii) Why have there been so few examples of managing existing use for risk reduction to date? and (iii) What further steps may be necessary to bring clarity and certainty to a very difficult issue with many competing views and imperatives? This has been an interdisciplinary research project involving planning, legal and social systems understanding. It has involved interviews with territorial and regional local government authorities, assessment of current Regional Policy Statement (RPS) documents, legal analysis, and a review of planning and legal literature. It has also been usefully informed by discussion with the project steering group, which included representatives from local and central government, and researchers with planning, legal, and natural hazards and climate change expertise. Reflective of the complexity of the situation, there are four purposes and therefore four audiences for this work: (i) to provide local government agencies with greater clarity on their options for reducing risk through the management of existing uses; (ii) to provide policy makers in central government with an awareness of the challenges facing local government agencies in developing and implementing land use policies that target existing uses for reducing natural hazard risk; (iii) to provide those advising people on the legal ramifications of policy choices in this area some legal analysis of the key sections and (iv) to contribute to further research on climate change adaptation, dynamic adaptive pathways planning (DAPP) , and managed retreat, by refining our understanding of the issues that need to be addressed to progress these. (auth)