Parliament has passed the first phase of the Government's reform of the Resource Management Act, designed to speed-up decision making.
MPs debated the legislation under urgency on Wednesday evening before passing it into law by 108 votes to 13.
The Greens and the Maori Party were the only parties to oppose the bill, which takes effect on 1 October.
Environment Minister Nick Smith says the changes will streamline RMA processes and help developers, homeowners and the Government to get projects through the system.
He told Morning Report that huge delays and costs associated with the RMA have harmed both the environment and the economy. But he said, the law will still protect the environment.
Dr Smith says there will be further legislation next year to define the functions of the newly established Environmental Protection Agency and make change to aquaculture rules.
The Green Party says the reforms weaken environmental protections, and make it harder for community groups to challenge developments.
Co-leader Russel Norman says it will now be harder for community groups to hear about proposed developments because of new notification rules.
Dr Norman says it will also be more difficult to challenge applications in the courts.