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Resource Management Act – Version 22

14 June 2017

The Resource Legislation Amendment Act 2017 came into force on 18 April 2017. It introduces further changes to the Resource Management Act 1991 (“RMA”) and makes amendments to the Reserves Act 1977, the Public Works Act 1981, the Conservation Act 1987, and the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012. Many changes came into effect on 19 April 2017, other changes will have effect from October 2017 and from 18 April 2022.

The key changes to the RMA relate to:

  • national (central government) direction
  • plan-making
  • consenting

Other changes to the RMA relate to:

  • courts
  • process changes
  • minor/technical amendments

One process change introduces procedural principles for decision-making, which means these principles require customer-focused decision-making.

Therefore, anyone exercising a power or function under the RMA must take all practicable steps to use processes that are timely, efficient, consistent, costeffective, and proportionate.

And, whether the changes will have an effect on the cost and time of consenting in New Zealand will largely depend on how councils implement the changes. The reduction in public participation through reduced notification and appeal rights will negatively affect would-be submitters and applicants to differing degrees. But, it represents a significant shift away from the concept of open public participation, which has previously underwritten the RMA.

Here is a summary of other key changes:

National direction

In addition to national policy statements, New Zealand coastal policy statements, and national environmental standards, the RMA now makes provision for national planning standards (“NPS”). NPS are intended to form a standardised national framework for district and regional plans and policy statements. It is expected the first set of NPS will be developed and approved by 2019. Further, the new powers to make regulations are intended to reduce duplication between Acts by removing or prohibiting rules that needlessly duplicate or overlap with the provisions of another Act (excluding provisions dealing with genetically modified organisms). These regulations may, for example, relate to matters covered by the Building Act 2004.These changes have immediate effect.


Two new plan-making processes have been introduced: “streamlined” and “collaborative”. Limited notification of plan changes may be used when full public notification would be disproportionate to and inefficient in the circumstances. One of the effects of these changes is to reduce the scope of public participation and associated appeal rights. These changes have immediate effect.

From 18 April 2022, councils will no longer be able to require financial contributions. This means that the costs of servicing new growth should be met through development contributions under the Local Government Act 2002. Alternatively, consent conditions may require the construction of infrastructure directly related to the proposed development.


Most of the changes to consenting will not have effect until 18 October 2017. They introduce a series of new concepts that are relevant to residential subdivision and development. One of the effects of these changes is to reduce the scope of public participation and associated appeal rights.

Councils must except “boundary activities” from needing resource consent if the relevant neighbour provides written approval. Boundary activities will include things like yard setbacks, height in relation to boundaries and fences. Although, it will not include site coverage or maximum height.

Resource consent may not be required for marginal or temporary rule breaches where the effect of the breach cannot be discerned from those of permitted activities. An applicant may apply for an exemption, and if the council grants an exemption, the applicant will receive a written notice deeming the proposed activity is permitted. That written notice, though, will lapse if the applicant does not give effect to it within five years.

A new “fast track” process for controlled activities will apply to district consents. Fast track applications must be processed within ten working days if non-notified. An application will cease to be fast track if it is notified, a hearing is necessary, or the applicant opts out.

New four-step processes for determining public and limited notification have been introduced. These processes remove councils’ general discretion to publicly notify applications and to preclude notification of some applications for subdivision and residential activities. One desired outcome from removing some of these applications from the usual notification tests is to speed up the delivery of housing.

Subdivision consents may be refused or have conditions imposed to manage risks from natural hazards. While this has always been the case, the definition of natural hazards has been widened and now includes, but is not limited to, earthquake, tsunami, erosion, volcanic and geothermal activity, landslip, subsidence, sedimentation, wind, drought, fire, or flooding. Otherwise, the scope for imposing conditions has been reduced.


Unless the activities and consents include non-complying activities, neither submitters nor applicants will be able to appeal decisions relating to boundary activities, subdivision consents, or residential activities. Submitters will be limited to appealing on points raised in their submissions. The effect of these changes is to make the council’s decision the final decision on certain types of application (subject to judicial review). These changes will have effect from 18 October 2017.

Source: InBrief Winter 2017

Author: Vicki Toan

InBrief Winter 2017

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