The RMA Quality Planning Resource

Type of plan:

The example second generation plan structure shown in this guidance note can be referred to as the 'quadrant approach' to structuring a plan. It is an adaption of the hybrid-style of plan, chosen for its ability to cover a broad range of issues and topics that occur over a range of differing geographic scales and locations. Provisions are grouped according to issue or topic, but rules are separated from objectives and policies and are consolidated instead.

The 'quadrant' approach to structuring a plan

Commentary

Diagram

Step One: The RMA requires plans to contain Objectives, Policies, and Rules.

Objectives
Policies
Rules

Step Two: For the purposes of organising material into groups and demonstrating the origin of provisions, 'issues’ are added.

Issues
Objectives
Policies
Rules

Step Three: Issues can occur at either the region or district-wide level, or may be particular to a certain area, or sub-region. Step three requires identifying the geographical extent of each issue and dividing them (and their associated provisions) into two parallel plan provision streams.

District/Region Wide

Issues
Objectives
Policies
Rules

Area Specific

Issues
Objectives
Policies
Rules

Step Four: Many plan users will only need to refer to the rules of the plan. Only when a consent is required is reference to policy needed. Rules are therefore separated from policy and grouped together. There are thus four parts to the basic plan structure.

District/Region Wide

Issues
Objectives
Policies

Area Specific

Issues
Objectives
Policies

Rules

Rules

Step Five: Following the rule of 'general before specific':

  1. policy framework is kept in front of rules
  2. District/Region-provisions are placed in front of their area-specific counterparts (this occurs in respect of both the policy framework and rules)
  3. This then provides a natural order for the quadrants.

District/Region Wide

1

Issues
Objectives
Policies

Area Specific

2

Issues
Objectives
Policies

3

Rules

4

Rules

Step Six: It is unlikely that a plan can be written in the quadrant form shown in the diagram, so reorganising it into list form it becomes.

1: District/Region Wide Policy Framework
Issues
Objectives
Policies

2: Area-specific Policy Framework
Issues
Objectives
Policies

3: District/Region-wide Rules

4: Area-specific Rules

 

Step Seven: Finally, most plans will need introductory materials, appendices/annexes and maps to be workable. This becomes additional material that is placed either side of the four main parts. The additional material is ordered according to legislative drafting and publishing conventions.

Contents Pages
Plan Overview
Definitions

1: District/Region Wide Policy Framework
Issues
Objectives
Policies

2: Area-specific Policy Framework
Issues
Objectives
Policies

3: District/Region-wide Rules

4: Area-specific Rules

Appendices
Schedules
Maps

 

Why use the quadrant approach?

The quadrant approach is based on trying to structure a plan in a way that it follows a logical progression, is able to handle complexity without repetition, and is orientated to what most users will be looking for.

To avoid duplication, provisions are grouped in terms of whether issues apply across a district or region, or to only part of the district or region - so avoiding repetition of district-wide issues in every chapter. This is used in relation to both the policy sections and rules sections of the plan.

The policy sections run in logical fashion from issues through to policy, so that cross-referencing for these sections is minimised and the relationship from issue to policy (and back again) clearly evident.

Most people use a plan to determine how to design their proposal to fit plan rules and thereby avoid the need to obtain a resource consent. In this respect, most plan users are primarily interested in the rules that apply to them. Having all rules together without the need to sift through pages of issues, objectives and policies is beneficial to plan users. If a resource consent is required, cross-references can refer the plan user back to the relevant policy, objective or issue.

Types of provisions included

Under the RMA, plans are required to contain objectives, policies and rules. In addition it is suggested that issues are also included in this suggested structure so as to provide a convenient and logical way of grouping objectives and policies, and provide context as to their origin. The structure outlined below assumes that environmental results expected, and monitoring procedures, have been transferred to a monitoring strategy (such as one used to fulfill s35 duties). Methods (other than rules) and principal reasons have been identified in the s32 evaluation report and, where appropriate, other documents such as the Long Term Plan. Explanatory notes (such as in the margins of the policy chapters) could be used to alert plan readers to the location of other methods contained in external documents.

Order of plan parts

  1. Frontispiece carrying the council seal: This page carries the title of the plan, the seal to show that the plan is officially operative, and the date the plan was made operative. It is important that readers are quickly able to make a decision on the status of the plan and whether it is the most recent version.
  2. Contents page: This is critical to the reader's navigation of the plan as it can provide an overview of the structure of the plan and where information is most likely to be found. The contents page should at least show the parts (or chapters) of the plan and key headings (possibly down to the objective level in regard to the policy chapters, and activity class headings within each chapter of rules).
  3. Purpose of Plan: This is a short section to explain the purpose of the plan and provide an overview of the matters it covers. This is placed close to the front so that first-time plan readers can quickly understand what the plan covers (important when a local authority has multiple plans, or for the public to distinguish between regional and district plans). This should state if the plan is a combined plan and, if so, how it will identify the provisions of the regional policy statement, the regional plan and/or the district plan.
  4. Definitions: Definitions and maps are among the most referred-to sections in a plan. Definitions are critical to interpretation of the plan and need to be in a place that enables them to be located quickly. Intuitively many people will look at the front or the back of the plan (expecting definitions to been in an introduction, glossary, or an appendix). Ideally the front of the plan should be used as:
    1. it matches the structure often found legislation; and
    2. the terminology used in the plan should be consistent throughout; hence definitions are as important to the policy sections of the plan as they are to the rules. Having the definitions before the policy chapters reflects this.

  5. All definitions should be in a single 'definitions’ section of a plan rather than scattered throughout the document. This avoids definitions being overlooked, enables the plan writer to avoid inadvertent duplications or unintended minor variations to the same definition, and enhances usability and certainty. The exception is where particular rules need to use a term in a manner that differs from the primary meaning (for example 'building height’ is usually measured from ground level but could be measured from mean sea-level in some circumstances).

    For terms that are defined by other statutes, it is suggested that a glossary could follow the definitions chapter. The glossary should be marked out as not forming part of the plan, so as to avoid the need to go through the plan change process should those terms be altered in legislation through an amendment.

  6. Issues, objectives and policies dealing with region-wide (if a `regional plan) or district-wide (if a district plan) matters: These are separated from, and placed ahead of, those relating to specific locations (zones or policy areas for example). This order reflects the importance, and often integrated nature, of region or district-wide issues. It avoids the need to replicate general issues, objectives and policies in each zone or area-specific chapter (or section) in the plan and also matches legislative drafting convention of putting the general before the specific.
  7. Issues, objectives and policies for specific geographic areas or zones: These chapters of the plan contain issues, objectives and policies that relate solely to a particular zone or defined area, and do not apply across the region or district generally. For some regions, there may be specific rules that only apply in specified territorial authority districts, catchments, or management areas for example. For district plans, these sections could contain the policy frameworkzones or 'environments'. The order of each section or chapter within this part could be arranged alphabetically according to territorial local authority name, management area, or zone name.
  8. Rules for region or district-wide issues: These are placed ahead of those relating to specific geographic areas, thus:
    1. reflecting the need to ensure district or region-wide issues are managed in an integrated manner;
    2. ensuring that those who read the plan for the first time will most likely encounter them before the area or zone-specific rules (and are therefore less likely to overlook them);
    3. reducing the need to repeat the same rules in each area management or zone chapter of the plan;
    4. matching the philosophy of sequencing according to 'writing and considering the general before the particular’ and 'placing the fundamental before less fundamental’ (see 'Legislative Drafting Style', while noting that in general terms of weighting rules, the specific overrides the general).
  9. Rules applying to specific geographic areas: These chapters contain rules that are specific tozones, policy areas, or management areas (depending on the terminology the plan uses). Reference as to where to find the region or district-wide rules can be made as part of, or at the end of, each set of zone or policy area rules, to ensure that the region or district-wide rules are not overlooked. These could take the form of statements such as :
    1. "For rules relating to transportation refer to Chapter X"; or
    2. "For general rules relating to diffuse source discharges to water see X.Y"; or
    3. "Compliance is also required with rule W.W.Y".
  10. Appendices/Annexes/Schedules: Following publishing and legislative drafting convention, these sections are placed at the back of the plan. Often these will contain material (large tables or small maps) whose size or format cannot be easily incorporated into plan provisions in the main text of theStatutory acknowledgements that relate to the area the plan covers could also be placed here in the plan (depending on their nature and whether they directly affect plan provisions).
  11. Good practice ideas for plan preparation

    While the only legal requirements with regard to statutory acknowledgements in the preparation of plans and policy statements is to attach them to the relevant planning document, they provide a clear statement of the interests of tangata whenua that can be used to inform plan preparation.

    For example, statutory acknowledgements could be used to:

    • create a starting point for consultation
    • assist in drafting plan provisions
    • identify activities/circumstances in which the iwi authority may consider waiving its right to receive summaries of applications; for example where particular activities are not considered to affect the associations identified in the SA
    • using controlled, restricted discretionary and discretionary activity status where activities are likely to result in adverse effects on particular sites or issues of concern identified in the statutory acknowledgement, which can include the requirement to obtain written approval from the claimant group.
    • identify areas of importance to an iwi, or where consultation with iwi is to be encouraged through their incorporation into planning maps, or alert layers within GIS.
  12. Maps: These form a separate volume to allow them to be open at the same time as the provisions volume, and to be printed on paper of a larger size. Plans with relatively few maps (due to the small size of the area covered by the plan for example) could incorporate maps as another appendix.