Frequently asked questions about Cultural Impact Assessments

This guidance only includes changes to the RMA as a result of the Resource Management Amendment Act 2013 that are already in force. Part 3 of the Amendment Act will come into effect on 3 March 2015, which is 18 months from the date of Royal Assent (3 September 2013). For more information about the amendments please refer to the Ministry for the Environment’s - Fact Sheets available from the Ministry’s website.


The following questions and answers have been prepared to help with the understanding and use of Cultural Impact Assessments (CIAs) and include examples of reports.

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What is a Cultural Impact Assessment?

A CIA is a report documenting Māori cultural values, interests and associations with an area or a resource, and the potential impacts of a proposed activity on these. CIAs are a tool to facilitate meaningful and effective participation of Māori in impact assessment. A CIA should be regarded as technical advice, much like any other technical report such as ecological or hydrological assessments.

Some iwi/hapū use the terms ‘Tangata Whenua Impact Assessment’, or ‘Tangata Whenua Effects Assessment’, to describe the impact assessment process and report.


There is no statutory requirement for applicants or the council to prepare or commission a CIA. However, an assessment of impacts on cultural values and interests can assist both applicants and the council to meet statutory obligations in a number of ways, including:

  • preparation of an Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE) in accordance with s88(2)(b) and Schedule 4 of the Resource Management Act 1991 ('the RMA')
  • requests for further information under s92 of the RMA in order to assess the application
  • providing information to assist the council in determining notification status under ss95 to 95F of the RMA
  • providing information to enable appropriate consideration of the relevant Part 2 matters when making a decision on an application for resource consent under s104 of the RMA
  • consideration of appropriate conditions of resource consent under s108 of the RMA.

CIAs may also be relevant to proposals of national significance that are lodged with the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). Major infrastructure or public works projects of national significance are highly likely to require assessments of cultural effects.


  • Cultural impact assessment prepared by the Takamore Trust, for the proposed Mackays to Peka Peka Expressway (EPA publications library).

An example of how CIA reports are used to inform an AEE for a proposal of national significance can be found here.

Cultural values reports (CVR) are variations of CIAs. These can be used in assessing or providing background information when preparing plans.

CVRs can identify and describe values pertaining to an area or resource. They differ from CIAs in that they may not include a description of effects as they do not relate to a specific activity. However, they may address broad level impacts of development occurring or anticipated in that area. Cultural values reports can provide direction as to the relevant issues and how these should best be addressed.


What is included in a Cultural Impact Assessment?

The content and structure of a CIA may differ between iwi/hapū groups and with the nature and scale of the proposed activity. However, a CIA should always include:

  • Information on the relevant cultural values associated with the site or area (noting that iwi/hapū may choose not to fully disclose information about some sites);
  • The effects on those values, and the relationship of tangata whenua to them, as a result of the proposed activity; and
  • Recommendations to avoid, remedy or mitigate adverse effects, including but not limited to recommended conditions of consent should the application be granted.

A well-crafted CIA will provide this information in a manner that is clear, concise and relevant to the proposed activity.

Generally, a CIA report will also include:

  • methodology - description of the consultative processes used in preparing the report (site visit, hui, tangata whenua presentations, reviews of draft and sign off)
  • a brief description of the proposed activity
  • recognition of the iwi/hapū within the area subject to the application and a description of who the report is being prepared on behalf of
  • a brief overview of the relevant planning framework
  • iwi/hapū expectations for 'where to from here' - the process following the CIA.

A CIA may also include an Archaeological Assessment or survey (as a subcontracted separate report that provides tangata whenua with information needed to assess impacts on archaeological values from a cultural perspective).


What is a Cultural Impact Assessment used for?

A CIA can form part of an AEE in relation to an application for resource consent.

A CIA can:

  • identify the effects of a proposed activity on Māori (tangata whenua) cultural associations with the environment
  • identify or assist identification and formulation of methods to avoid, remedy or mitigate adverse effects on cultural values and associations
  • suggest what conditions of consent could be applied if consent is granted
  • provide iwi/hapū with comprehensive information about and improved understanding of the proposed activity
  • assist both the applicant and the council (or the EPA) in decision-making under the RMA.

The assessment of impacts on cultural values, interests and associations can be an important part of the resource consenting process under the RMA, particularly where activities are likely to have an effect on Māori historic heritage or the relationship of Māori and their culture and traditions with their ancestral lands, water, sites, wāhi tapu and other taonga.

The need for a CIA can emerge from:

  • initial planning and consultation involved in the development of a proposal for a new activity that requires resource consent, whereby tangata whenua identify a CIA as the appropriate method for assessing effects
  • a request from the council for information or specialist advice. See Requesting further information and Are there aspects of the application that need specialist advice?
  • a request from the EPA for more information. Under s149 the EPA can request information or commission a report.
  • referral of the application by the council to tangata whenua.

CIA methodologies can be applied to processes and requirements under other legislation, such as the Historic Places Act 1993 and Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996. See for example Best Practice Guidelines for undertaking a Cultural Impact Assessment under the HSNO Act 1996 (Environmental Protection Agency publications).

The information within this document is focused on CIAs commissioned to assist RMA processes.


Who prepares a Cultural Impact Assessment?

A CIA is generally prepared by, or on behalf of, the iwi/hapū who hold manawhenua in the area of the proposed activity.

It is important that the person preparing the CIA has a good understanding of the Māori cultural values and interests in the area affected by the proposal. The writer of the CIA report should have a clear mandate from the tangata whenua they are preparing the assessment for. This will provide all parties with a level of confidence and understanding, and ensure that the CIA process is effective. Members of the iwi/hapū are often the best source of this expertise and information.

Some iwi/hapū groups have resource management units, officers, or preferred service providers who undertake resource management work. Where a professional writer or consultant is used to prepare a CIA report, these people should actively engage tangata whenua in the preparation of the report, through hui, interviews or other appropriate methods. To ensure the consent process is a smooth one, the final report should have the mandate or sign off from the iwi/hapū.


How do I find out which iwi/hapū has an interest in the area and/or proposed activity?

Local authorities are required to keep and maintain records about iwi authorities and groups that represent hapū within their region or district for the purposes of the RMA (s35A). As a starting point, Te Puni Kōkiri has developed a national web-based database that provides information on the iwi authorities within each region and district and the areas over which one or more iwi exercise kaitiakitanga.

In addition to the information provided by Te Puni Kōkiri, local authorities are likely to hold more specific information on iwi and hapū groups within their district or region. This information may include contact details and areas of kaitiaki responsibility for iwi/hapū groups or mandated representatives, officers, or preferred service providers with the capacity and expertise to prepare CIAs.


At what stage of the consent process should a Cultural Impact Assessment be prepared?

Early is best. Applicants should be encouraged to contact tangata whenua at least at the pre-application stage, but preferably during the concept formulation stage.

See Pre-application advice to an applicant for more information.

Commissioning a CIA early in the application process can assist in developing the proposal and preparing a complete application. Early input could also provide opportunity for iwi/hapū to influence or have input into the design and planning of projects to address potential adverse effects on cultural values before commitments are finalised. Thus a CIA may be a staged process, with the final assessment taking into account the early consultation and input. It allows time for a report to be prepared and potential effects on cultural values to be considered and incorporated into the proposal. Preparing a CIA early in the process allows the opportunity for a relationship to develop between the applicant and tangata whenua.

Other reports or research that may be commissioned for the consent application may be useful for the preparation of a CIA, as these may identify effects that may need to be considered in the CIA (e.g. technical reports such as a marine ecology survey, or water quality sampling results). Coordinating the timing of such reports is important.

However, a CIA can be prepared at any stage of the consent process and can be commissioned by various parties including:

  • an applicant can request a CIA directly from the iwi/hapū.
  • the council can suggest the applicant contact the tangata whenua of the area/site subject to an application if the scale and nature of the activity is likely to have an impact on their cultural associations with the environment
  • an iwi or hapū may approach the council or the applicant, after becoming aware of a resource consent application, to advise that a CIA is necessary to identify and assess the effects of the application on tangata whenua
  • any of the parties can request a CIA in response to the accidental discovery of artefacts or other taonga (valued possessions) or sites of significance to tangata whenua during unconsented works or during the early stages of a consented activity
  • the council can request the applicant to commission a CIA to provide further information under s92. See Requesting further information.
  • A hearings panel or commissioners can request that further information be provided during a hearing, under s41C.
  • The EPA can request information or commission a report, under s149.


Why commission a Cultural Impact Assessment?

A CIA can identify the actual or likely effects of a proposal on cultural values and interests, both positive and adverse. Early identification of effects can enable modification of the proposal, if required, to avoid, remedy or mitigate adverse effects.

Benefits of a CIA can include:

  • improved tangata whenua understanding of the proposal
  • a more comprehensive AEE, and therefore increased certainty for council with regard to tangata whenua values
  • agreement between tangata whenua and the applicant on how to avoid, remedy or mitigate any relevant potential adverse effects of the application on tangata whenua, prior to lodgement of the resource consent application
  • increased certainty and understanding of effects on cultural values and reduced risk of unintentional or unexpected effects from consented activities
  • proposed consent conditions should the application be approved
  • improved relationships and communication routes that facilitate more effective future contact and outcomes for all parties
  • encouraging active participation of tangata whenua in resource management and improving the representation of the interests of tangata whenua
  • incorporation of the relevant matters in Part 2 into resource consent decision-making, and appropriate weight afforded to these
  • local authorities fostering the development of Māori capacity to contribute to decision-making processes under the Local Government Act 2002
  • local authorities satisfying consultation requirements under the Local Government Act 2002
  • increased public awareness of the relationship of Māori with natural and physical resources and the importance of Māori as a partner in the resource management process
  • better cultural and environmental outcomes.


When is commissioning a Cultural Impact Assessment good practice?

Like all AEEs, the comprehensiveness of the report and the need for a CIA will be proportional to the potential effects of the proposed activity.

See Assessing the application and assessment of environmental effects.

A CIA can enable applicants to file a more comprehensive application for resource consent. A CIA can be useful in identifying potential adverse environmental effects for a proposal for any type of application (controlled, restricted discretionary, discretionary or non-complying). Preparation of a CIA report to accompany, or form part of an AEE, is good practice for any proposal that may have a significant effect on Part 2 matters pertaining to tangata whenua.

See Commissioning reports from other people for more information.

Commissioning a CIA is good practice when the proposed activity is on, adjacent to, or likely to impact on:

  • a site of historical or cultural significance to tangata whenua such as urupā (burial sites), wāhi tapu (sacred sites), known archaeological sites, or nohoanga sites (seasonal occupation sites)
  • flora and fauna of cultural significance to tangata whenua such as a mahinga kai (food) resources or species used for other cultural practices such as weaving (raranga) or traditional medicine (rongoā)
  • areas of historical or spiritual importance to tangata whenua
  • areas with significant landscape values to tangata whenua, including areas identified as cultural landscapes.
  • waterways or wetlands of importance to tangata whenua
  • significant areas for tangata whenua within the coastal environment such as tauranga waka (canoe landing sites), mahinga kai areas (food resources and gathering) or wāhi tapu.

A CIA may also be appropriate where:

  • applications are for large, intensive, or complex projects
  • there is not enough information included in a resource consent application to assess the likely effects of the activity on tangata whenua values
  • an assessment of potential impacts on cultural values and associations would take a lot of time for tangata whenua to complete
  • the cultural values associated with the site or in relation to the proposal are not easily assessed and new or additional research is required to identify the effects of the activity
  • the proposed activity may be precedent setting.

Under s36A there is no duty on either the applicant or the council to consult on applications for resource consent or notices of requirement. However a CIA can help ensure that decision makers have sufficient information and can afford appropriate weight to cultural matters, including ensuring that Part 2 matters are appropriately addressed.

See Consulting with tangata whenua for more information.

When CIAs are not considered necessary, but some understanding of the interests of tangata whenua is desirable, provision for a form of minor CIA may be established through referral procedures from the council or through direct contact with tangata whenua. These enable initial identification of potential effects on cultural values or the need for a more comprehensive CIA. This process also provides benefits in establishing a regular relationship with tangata whenua.


How do I commission a Cultural Impact Assessment?

You can request a CIA directly from the iwi/hapū who hold manawhenua in the area.

The register of iwi authorities and hapū groups held by councils should contain a list of contact details for each iwi authority or hapū group within the district or region. This should provide either direct contact details or referral to the people who can prepare a CIA on behalf of the tangata whenua of the area.

CIAs are most effective when their terms of reference and the CIA process are developed as part of a collaborative process between the applicant (or other party commissioning the report) and tangata whenua. Terms of Reference should outline:

  • the name of the person to write the report and their mandate from the iwi/hapū who hold manawhenua
  • the proposed methodology to facilitate the identification and assessment of effects
  • key deliverables including time frames and milestones
  • costs including travel, koha for meetings and consultation, research and report preparation and any      other resources that may be needed
  • communication routes and contacts
  • intellectual property/use of information in the report.

Sample terms of reference (PDF 61KB)


How long will it take to prepare a Cultural Impact Assessment?

The time taken to prepare a CIA will depend on the scale and nature of the proposed activity, what stage in the consent process the assessment is undertaken and the time and resources available to the iwi/hapū carrying out the work.

CIAs prepared for large or complex projects may take 6 months or more to prepare (e.g. a proposed wind farm or hydroelectric scheme). A CIA for a smaller scale activity may take only a few weeks to prepare.

The time frame for preparing the CIA is an important part of the terms of reference and needs to be incorporated into the project formulation and application process. Timing may be affected by the frequency of meetings of the iwi/hapū group (for obtaining a mandate and, later, sign off) or other community events of cultural significance and priority. Some flexibility in timing expectations is therefore recommended.


How much will it cost?

Cost will depend on the scale and nature of the proposed activity, and the significance and magnitude of the potential effects on cultural values. Section 88(2)(b) requires that the detail of an AEE corresponds with the scale and significance of the effects the activity may have on the environment.

Advice from iwi/hapū groups through the preparation of a CIA report is the result of their expertise in the matters of cultural values. Advice sought from iwi/hapū on the effects of proposed activities should be regarded as technical advice, much like any other service provider of technical advice, such as ecological or hydrological assessments. Iwi/hapū advice should therefore be paid for at a similar rate to that of other professionals involved in resource management.

The cost of preparing the CIA, including deliverables and timeframes, should be agreed upon prior to the report-writing process and included in the terms of reference.


How are recommendations from a Cultural Impact Assessment implemented/ taken into account?

The key to an effective CIA is to foster a genuine relationship between the applicant and tangata whenua.

It is good practice following the completion of a CIA report for the applicant to respond in writing and/or meet with the iwi/hapū. ‘Post CIA consultation’ provides an opportunity for both parties to discuss the recommendations contained within the report, how they can be accommodated, and the implications for forthcoming resource consent applications.

The Terms of Reference or a subsequent Memorandum of Understanding can set out any on-going consultation needs or how recommendations from the report will be addressed.

Resource consent applicants should provide CIA reports to council. The AEE should include the key issues raised in the CIA, the applicant's response, and any negotiated outcomes after receiving the CIA report. Schedule 4 of the RMA requires resource consent applicants to provide, as part of their AEE, their response to the views of any person consulted.

Councils should take the issues reported and any agreements reached between the parties into account in assessing the AEE, and the application for resource consent. In the absence of any formal agreement between the applicant and tangata whenua, it is important that councils review the CIA report to identify and understand the cultural effects of the activity and the ways that these effects can be addressed. The outcomes from the CIA can be reflected in the conditions of consent if granted.


What is the difference between a Cultural Impact Assessment and consultation?

The focus of tangata whenua participation in resource management is at the 'front end ' of the planning process (plans and policy). Under s36A neither the applicant nor a council has a duty to consult any person in respect of applications for resource consent or notices of requirement.

The RMA however, does not preclude consultation with any party. Consultation with tangata whenua and the gathering of information to inform the assessment of environmental effects and good decision-making is still recognised as best practice. Consultation is particularly important where plan-making processes are yet to fully incorporate tangata whenua values and associations with natural and physical resources, or where proposals for activities are likely to have a significant potential impact on tangata whenua associations with the environment.

See Consulting with tangata whenua

The preparation of a CIA is different from consultation in that it is seeking expert advice in project development and/or application for resource consent. This is part of the gathering of information phase of project development and differs from legal "consultation" under the RMA. In preparing a CIA, tangata whenua are acting in a technical capacity, rather than one of advocacy.

A CIA provides the basis for consultation. The process of preparing a CIA provides tangata whenua with the information needed to make informed decisions. The expert advice in a CIA report provides applicants with the information needed to engage with tangata whenua to address any cultural effects associated with a proposed activity.

Consultation should form part of the process for preparing a CIA, or may occur when:

  • an applicant is at the initial stages of project development and is scoping the level of input required and the potential impact of the activity
  • an application for resource consent has been publicly notified and submissions have been received
  • the decision not to publicly notify an application for resource consent has been made
  • there are changes to the nature or scope of the project.


Will tangata whenua still submit on the application if it is notified?

Tangata whenua or individuals within iwi or hapū groups may still lodge a submission on a resource consent application (public or limited notification) where a CIA report has been commissioned.

This may be because the recommendations in the CIA report have not been addressed to the expectations of the tangata whenua, or groups or individuals within the iwi or hapū may feel they have not been adequately consulted or represented in the CIA report preparation process. A submission may also be prepared to follow through on issues identified or recommendations made in the CIA, and provide a formal opportunity for input into the decision-making process.

Tangata whenua may also submit on an application where they want to demonstrate support for the application, and the applicant’s commitment to the CIA process.