Country:New Zealand
Policy status:In Force
Date Effective:1991
Date Amended:

Regularly amended: 2004, 2011, 2013, The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill (the Bill) was introduced to Parliament on 26 November 2015

Policy Type:Policy Support>Strategic planning
Policy Target:Framework/ Multi-sectoral Policy
Agency:Ministry for the Environment
Legal References:Resource Management Act 1991 No 69; Resource Management Reform Bill 2012; Resource Management Amendment Act 2013 (RMAA 2013); Local Government (Auckland Transitional Provisions) Amendment Act 2013; Local Government Official Information and Meetings Amendment Act 2013;The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill (the Bill) was introduced to Parliament on 26 November 2015.

The Resource Management Act (RMA) is New Zealand's main piece of legislation that sets out how the environment should be managed.

When enacted, the RMA repealed 78 statutes and regulations, and amended numerous others, to provide a single piece of legislation for the management of land, water, soil and air throughout New Zealand. The RMA set out to create a more streamlined, integrated and comprehensive approach to environmental management. A review of local government at the same time provided legislators with an ideal opportunity to simplify the way the new legislation would be implemented. The RMA was ground-breaking legislation. At the time of its enactment, no other country had a mechanism for managing the quality of land, air and water under a single law. Since that time, many other countries have moved to develop integrated environmental legislation.

Under the RMA virtually all significant uses of land, air, coastal, or water-related resources are regulated by provisions of the RMA or by rules in regional or district plans or by decisions on consent applications. Plans are to achieve the purpose of the RMA which is 'sustainable management' of natural and physical resources.

Most rule-making and decision-making is expressly related back to the 'Purpose and Principles' section of the Act which contains the statutory definition of 'sustainable management'.

The National Policy Statement for Renewable Electricity Generation (NPS) was adopted in April 2011 to ensure a consistent approach to planning for renewable electricity generation in New Zealand by giving clear government direction on the benefits of renewable electricity generation and requiring local government to make provision for it in their plans.

Further proposed amendments to the RMA, in the form of The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill (theBill), were introduced to Parliament on 26 November 2015. The Bill comprises about 40 individual proposals aimed at delivering substantive improvements to the RMA. Those changes fall in five main areas:

a)       Improving national consistency and direction. The RMA gives councils the responsibility for developing regional and district plans to manage the environment in their communities. These plans set out what activities people can do, what activities require permission from the council (a resource consent), and how activities should be carried out. Variation between different council plans acrossNew Zealand can be confusing. By allowing a national planning template to be created, the reforms will help consolidate the wide variety of rules across the country. While resource management legislation is largely implemented by local government, central government can provide national direction. Specific tools to provide national direction include national policy statements, national environmental standards, and regulations. The reforms will strengthen and broaden the powers of national policy statements and national environmental standards and reduce the time it takes to make them.

b)       Creating a responsive planning process. Currently the RMA only allows councils one process for developing plans, whatever the circumstances. The reforms will improve the plan-making process and provide new ways of producing quality plans, by introducing two new plan-making options – the streamlined planning process and the collaborative planning process.

c)       Simplifying the consenting system. The reforms introduce greater proportionality into the process of obtaining resource consent by introducing a 10 working day time limit for determining simple, fast-track applications. Councils will also have discretion to waive the requirement for a consent for marginal or temporary non-compliance where the effects on others are minor. The costs of getting resource consent, and any conditions that apply, will also be more transparent. The reforms propose a regulation-making power that requires consent authorities to fix the fees for processing certain consent applications, as well as fixed remuneration for hearings panels and fixed fees for hearings.

d)       Recognising the importance of affordable housing. The Productivity Commission found tight land regulation under the RMA was one of the biggest factors driving up house prices. The RMA can constrain land supply and push up section prices. The reforms will mean councils have to be more forward thinking, and proactively plan to have enough residential and business land for development. More efficient consenting will make suitable development easier and more affordable. Currently, land may not be subdivided unless the subdivision is expressly allowed by a national environmental standard, district plan rule, or resource consent. The reforms will reverse this presumption, meaning subdivision will be allowed unless it is restricted.

e)       Better Alignment with other Acts. Some activities under the RMA require permissions under other Acts as well. The reforms will simplify these processes and reduce duplication across a number of Acts, including the Reserves Act 1977 and the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996. The reforms will also align processing of notified concession applications under the Conservation Act with notified resource consent timeframes. Processingof certain publicly notified marine consents under the Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012 will also be aligned with the board of inquiry process for nationally significant proposals under the RMA. This will make it more efficient for the Environmental Protection Authority to process these applications. Changes to the Public Works Act 1981 will provide easier and fairer compensation for property owners whose land is required for important infrastructure.

The Bill also proposes a number of amendments to the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012 They include: aligning certain consent processes with the RMA process for nationally significant proposals; a new tool for national direction; new requirements specifically addressing decommissioning; and amendments to existing provisions, including transitional and enforcement provisions.

This Bill had its first reading on 3 December 2015 and was referred to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee for consideration. The select committee will be receiving submissions until 14 March 2016.


The Resource Management (Energy and Climate Change) Amendment Act 2004 added emphasis to climate change and energy-efficiency issues in the Resource Management Act 1991.

The government has also proposed amendments to the RMA to "simplify and streamline" the statute, including a number of amendments designed specifically to reduce unnecessary time and cost of gaining consent for proposals of national significance such as renewable electricity generation facilities.

The resource management amendments of September 2013 include the:

  • Resource Management Amendment Act 2013 (RMAA 2013);
  • Local Government (Auckland Transitional Provisions) Amendment Act 2013;
  • Local Government Official Information and Meetings Amendment Act 2013.

These three Acts were previously known as the Resource Management Reform Bill 2012. The purpose of these reforms is to help create a resource management system that delivers communities’ planning needs, enables growth, and provides strong environmental outcomes in a timely and cost-effective way. It does this through: improving the resource consent regime; streamlining the delivery of Auckland’s first unitary plan; improving the information basis for local decision-making; improving the workability of the RMA through minor and technical amendments including changes relating to district rules for trees, environmental monitoring data and RMA emergency provisions.

Further changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA) have been proposed that will build on the amendments made in September 2013. Early in 2015 the Government revealed its plans for a long-anticipated overhaul of the Resource Management Act, touting changes that will lead to more affordable housing and a better managed environment. The ten major changes the Government wants to include in its second phase of reforms in 2015 are: add natural hazards; recognise urban planning; prioritise housing affordability; acknowledge importance of infrastructure; greater weight to property rights; speed up plan-making; encouraging collaborative resolution; strengthening national tools; internet for simplicity and speed; national planning templates.


Last modified: Mon, 18 Jan 2016 15:40:40 CET