The RMA Quality Planning Resource

linkages between key RMA documents

In the diagram, the thickness of the line corresponds to the legal weighting accorded the relationship between documents. Abbreviations:

GE = Must give effect to
NI = Must not be inconsistent with
RP = Must recognise and provide for
TA = Must take into account

A description of the relationships is as follows:

Regional plans:

  • must give effect to the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement (ss7 and 8 of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act 2000 are also deemed to be a New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement under s10 of that Act)
  • must give effect to any national policy statement and national environmental standard
  • must give effect to the regional policy statement
  • must not be inconsistent with any water conservation order
  • must not be inconsistent with any other regional plan for the region
  • a rule in a plan cannot be more lenient than a national environmental standard
  • a rule in a plan cannot be more stringent than a national environmental standard unless specifically allowed by that standard.

When preparing or changing a regional plan the regional council:

  • must recognise and provide for any customary marine title group planning document lodged with the council to the extent that its content has a bearing on the resource management issues of the region and to the extent the plan or plan change relates to the customary marine title area.
  • take into account any customary marine title group planning document lodged with the council to the extent that its content has a bearing on the resource management issues of the region and to the extent the plan or plan change relates to a part of the common marine and coastal area outside the customary marine title area.
  • must take into account any relevant planning document recognised by an iwi authority, and lodged with the council, to the extent that its content has a bearing on the resource management issues of the region
  • have regard to any proposed regional policy statement in respect of the region
  • have regard to the Crown 's interests in the coastal marine area
  • have regard to any management plans and strategies prepared under other Acts to the extent that their content has a bearing on the resource management issues of the region
  • have regard to any relevant entry in the Historic Places Register to the extent that their content has a bearing on the resource management issues of the region
  • have regard to any regulations relating to ensuring sustainability, or the conservation, management, or sustainability of fisheries resources to the extent that their content has a bearing on the resource management issues of the region
  • have regard to the extent to which the Regional Plan needs to be consistent with the regional policy statements and plans, or proposed regional policy statements and proposed plans of adjacent regional councils.
  • have regard to the extent to which the regional policy statement needs to be consistent with regulations made under the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012

District plans:

  • must give effect to the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement
  • must give effect to any national policy statement
  • must give effect to the regional policy statement
  • must not be inconsistent with a water conservation order
  • must not be inconsistent with a regional plan
  • a rule in a plan cannot be more lenient than a national environmental standard
  • a rule in a plan can prevail over a national environmental standard if the rule is more stringent and the standard expressly allows a rule to be more stringent than the standard

When preparing or changing a district plan the territorial authority:

  • must have regard to any proposed regional policy statement in respect of the region; or proposed regional plan of its region in respect of any matter of regional significance
  • must have regard to any management plans and strategies prepared under other Acts
  • must have regard to relevant entries in the Historic Places Register to the extent that their content has a bearing on the resource management issues of the region
  • must have regard to regulations relating to ensuring sustainability, or the conservation, management, or sustainability of fisheries resources to the extent that their content has a bearing on the resource management issues of the region
  • must have regard to the extent to which the district plan needs to be consistent with the plans or proposed plans of adjacent territorial authorities.
  • must take into account any relevant planning document recognised by an iwi authority and lodged with the territorial authority, to the extent that their content has a bearing on the resource management issues of the district
  • must not have regard to trade competition

Note that those drafting and changing district plans should also consider how national environmental standards impact on plan provisions. Rules that conflict with or duplicate a national environmental standard must be removed, generally as soon as practicable after the standard comes into effect. The schedule 1 process is not required to be followed when making these changes.

Key linkages with selected non-RMA plans and strategies

Sections 61(2)(a)(i), 66(2)(c)(i) and 74(2)(b)(i) of the RMA require councils to have regard to management plans and strategies prepared under other acts to the extent that their content has a bearing on resource management issues of the district/region, when preparing or changing a regional policy statement, regional plan and district plan. Below is a list of some key management plans and strategies prepared under other acts:

  • Land Transport Management Act 2003
    • Regional Land Transport Plans
    • Regional Public Transport Plans
  • Local Government Act 2002
    • oGrowth strategies (optional)
    • oLong Term Plan
    • oAnnual Plan
    • oReserve Management Plans
  • Conservation Act 1987
    • Conservation Management Strategy (DOC)
    • Conservation Management Plan
  • Biosecurity Act 1993
    • Regional Pest Management Strategies
  • Reserves Act 1977
    • Reserve Management Plans

More detail on the relationship and purpose of documents that influence RMA plans is provided in the text below.

Long Term Plans

Under the Local Government Act 2002, local authorities are required to develop a Long Term Plan.

Prepared by each local authority, Long Term Plans are ten-year strategic planning documents that cover all local authority functions from financial planning and economic development initiatives, to social service provisions such as libraries, housing and community facilities. Long Term Plans must be reviewed every three years.

The Long Term Plan does not override the provisions of RMA plans (or other statutory documents), nor is there a legal requirement that any new plans must conform to a Long Term Plan that is in force. It is anticipated that local authorities will use the Long Term Plan process to inform and coordinate RMA plans and other plans and strategies. Consultation that has been carried out as part of the Long Term Plan process within the previous 36 months can also be used to inform RMA plan preparation.

RMA plans can be used as a means to achieve environmental outcomes under the Long Term Plan. This could either be done directly through the alignment of objectives, policies and rules, or coordinated regionally through a regional policy statement. Conversely, the Long Term Plan can be used as a means of coordinating methods other than rules for RMA plans (where they are aligned). Of particular note should be the policy on the development of contributions and financial contributions and financial strategies contained in Long Term Plans, which provide direction to a local authority Annual Plan (among other things it sets out funding for particular services, programmes and capital works for the financial year, and the two years following).

Note that ss61(2)(a)(i), 66(2)(c)(i), and 74(2)(b)(i) of the RMA require that regional policy statements, and regional and district plans have regard to management plans and strategies prepared under other Acts.

It is worth noting also the weighting that proposed plans, plan variations, or plan changes may have by virtue of their relationship with a Long Term Plan.

Annual Plans

Annual Plans are developed under s95 of the Local Government Act 2002. As part of their purpose they:

  • contain the proposed annual budget and funding impact statement for the year to which the annual plan relates
  • support the Long Term Plan in providing integrated decision-making and coordination of the resources of the local authority
  • extend opportunities for participation by the public in decision-making processes.

As all local authority work programmes are funded by, or have implications associated with operational or capital expenditure, linkages with Annual Plans (either directly of via the funding strategy in the Long Term Plan) become important during the years between reviews of Long Term Plans when considering:

  • the funding and resourcing of the plan development process
  • the funding of programmes to implement methods other than rules in RMA plans (for example animal pest eradication in some catchments to assist in maintaining biodiversity or water quality)
  • infrastructure (for example when planning new urban growth areas, RMA plan provisions should align with the ability to fund infrastructure necessary to avoid, remedy, or mitigate effects).

Government Policy Statement on Land Transport Funding

The Government Policy Statement on Land Transport Funding (GPS) is the main guiding document by which the government prioritises expenditure from the National Land Transport Fund over a 10-year period.

This GPS is issued by the Minister of Transport at least once every six years. It details the government's desired outcomes and funding priorities for the use of the National Land Transport Fund to support activities in the land transport sector. It contains the Crown’s Land Transport Investment Strategy, which is reviewed at least once every three years. The GPS covers the impacts the government wishes to achieve from its investment in land transport, how it will achieve these impacts through funding certain activity classes, how much funding will be provided, and how this funding will be raised.

The GPS is developed and issued under the Land Transport Management Act 2003, which is the main statute for New Zealand's land transport planning and funding system. Regional councils, city/district councils, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), and other approved organisations under that Act can receive money from the National Land Transport Fund for the land transport activities they deliver, such as the construction and maintenance of state highways, local roads and public transport services.

National Land Transport Programme

The NZTA 's National Land Transport Programme gives effect to the GPS. It contains all the land transport activities, such as public transport services and infrastructure and road construction and maintenance, that are expected to receive funding for the next three years.

Regional Land Transport Plan

Regional Councils are responsible for the preparation and review of Regional Land Transport Plans (and Auckland Transport on behalf of Auckland Council). A Regional Land Transport Plan is to be issued every six years and reviewed every three years.  

A Regional Land Transport Plan must set out the region’s land transport objectives, policies, and measures for at least 10 financial years. It must contribute to the purpose of the Land Transport Management Act 2003 and be consistent with the GPS.

A Regional Land Transport Plan can inform district plan development by:

  • identifying the potential impact of changing patterns and trends in land use planning. This is required to predict land transport requirements in the future
  • ensuring that subdivision and development is appropriately sited to support and make the best use of existing transport systems
  • making appropriate provision for alternative modes of travel other than by car.

Note that sections 61(2)(a)(i), 66(2)(c)(i), and 74(2)(b)(i) of the RMA require that regional policy statements, and regional and district plans have regard to management plans and strategies prepared under other Acts.

Regional Pest Management Strategies

The Biosecurity Act 1993 sets the framework for the management of plant and animal pests. Regional and unitary authorities may prepare regional strategies that cover pest management over a period of five years or more. Strategies must be reviewed at least once every five years.

Each regional pest management strategy will normally:

  • specify the level of intervention required to manage one or more pest species (from monitoring to total eradication) through various objectives
  • detail the means by which council will meet the objectives.

Sections 61(2)(a)(i), 66(2)(c)(i), and 74(2)(b)(i) of the RMA require that regional policy statements, and regional and district plans have regard to management plans and strategies prepared under other Acts.

While many regional pest management strategies pre-date Long Term Plans, they can be used to assist regional and unitary councils in addressing community outcomes (especially those relating to environmental and economic wellbeing).

The objectives contained in regional pest management strategies and the ways in which they are met may overlap or assist the objectives in RMA plans (such as objectives and policies relating to maintaining indigenous biodiversity). In this regard pest management strategies can be used as a method (other than a rule) for implementing RMA objectives and policies.

Conversely, RMA policy statements and plans can assist in increasing the effectiveness of pest management.

Reserve Management Plans

Reserve management plans are required under the Reserve Act 1977, while some residual requirements with respect to regional parks also survive in sections in the Local Government Act 1974.

Reserve management plans are required to "provide for and ensure the use, enjoyment, maintenance, protection, and preservation, as the case may require, and, to the extent that the administering body 's resources permit, the development, as appropriate, of the reserve for the purposes for which it is classified". They are also required to incorporate and ensure compliance with the principles relating to the management and purpose of the type of reserve to which they apply.

Under the Reserves Act 1977, reserves are designated one or more of seven types:

  • recreation reserves
  • historic reserves
  • natural reserves
  • scenic reserves
  • scientific reserves
  • government-purpose reserves (usually for a set stated purpose but can be used to protect areas with important wildlife, scenic, historical, archaeological or scientific values provided they are compatible with the primary purpose of the reserve)
  • local purposes reserves (for set stated purpose but can be used to protect areas with important wildlife, scenic, historical, archaeological or scientific values provided they are compatible with the primary purpose of the reserve).

Access and use of reserves may be controlled through bylaws, licenses, permits, covenants and other similar means as appropriate to the type to reserve.

Reserves and reserve management plans can be used as a methods (other than a rule in a plan) to meet the objectives and policies of RMA plans although they may not have been developed for that purpose. For example, a historic reserve classification under the Reserves Act could be used to assist in the management of a historic site under council control in place of some RMA plan controls.

Note that sections 61(2)(a)(i), 66(2)(c)(i), and 74(2)(b)(i) of the RMA require that regional policy statements, and regional and district plans have regard to management plans and strategies prepared under other Acts.

Growth strategies and plans

Growth strategies and their respective plans are not required under legislation but are increasingly being used by local authorities as a means to coordinate the land use planning, infrastructural, and financial needs associated with urban growth.

Implementation of growth strategies will of necessity be through several plans simultaneously. The Long Term Plan could be used to set the broad framework required to coordinate social, environmental, economic and cultural aspects of managing the growth. The financial strategy in the Long Term Plan could then be used to guide annual plans that set the year-by year funding for infrastructure. Objectives in the Long Term Plan could also provide an input into objectives and policies in RLTSs, reserve management plans, regional policy statements, regional plans, and district plans that would implement the growth strategy.

A regional policy statement can coordinate and direct the plans of both the regional council and territorial authorities in the region so as to provide for consistent and integrated outcomes (for example in regard to land use and key infrastructure) when implementing a growth strategy. Alternatively, a growth strategy may be implemented at a sub-regional level through a combination of RMA plan provisions (for example land use), reserve management plan provisions (if new reserves are required or changes need to be made to the management of existing reserves) and annual plan programmes (for infrastructure and services, for example).

Civil Defence and Emergency Management Plans

Civil Defence and Emergency Management plans (CDEM plans) are prepared under the Civil Defence and Emergency Management Act 2002 for each CDEM group. While these plans cover matters associated with emergency response and recovery, they can also cover material associated with hazard risk reduction (such as avoidance of hazard-prone land, making provision for infrastructure that mitigates flooding risk or planning evacuation routes). In this way that can inform and provide an input into RMA plans either directly, or through a regional policy statement (in which case regional and district plans may have to give effect to any policy or method in the RPS that may have been derived from a CDEM plan).

Note that sections 61(2)(a)(i), 66(2)(c)(i), and 74(2)(b)(i) of the RMA require that regional policy statements, and regional and district plans, have regard to management plans and strategies prepared under other Acts.

Conservation Management Strategies and Plans

Conservation management strategies are prepared by the Department of the Conservation under ss17D and 17F of the Conservation Act 1987. Conservation management strategies are the primary method of implementing general policies produced by the Director-General of Conservation and of establishing objectives for the integrated management of natural and historic resources, including any species, managed by the Department of Conservation under the:

  • Wildlife Act 1953
  • Marine Reserves Act 1971
  • Reserves Act 1977
  • Wild Animal Control Act 1977
  • Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978
  • National Parks Act 1980
  • New Zealand Walkways Act 1990
  • Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act 2000.

Conservation management plans are prepared under s17E of the Conservation Act 1987 (but can also be prepared under other Acts such as the Reserves Act 1977). The purpose of a conservation management plan is to implement conservation management strategies and establish detailed objectives for the integrated management of natural and historic resources within any area for recreation, tourism, and other conservation purposes.

In a manner similar to reserve management plans, conservation management plans can have regulatory effect through bylaws (such as those relating to access).

Sections 61(2)(a)(i), 66(2)(c)(i), and 74(2)(b)(i) of the RMA require that regional policy statements, and regional and district plans have regard to management plans and strategies prepared under other Acts.

Conservation management strategies and conservation management plans can provide useful information for RMA plans through identifying or recording:

  • the 'priority areas ' (such as certain identified wetlands, remnant forest, historic reserves and the like) where the Department of Conservation intends to focus its resources and the values attached to those priority areas
  • conservation management issues and options - some of which may overlap with, or help inform, RMA plan issues
  • Department of Conservation actions and implementation programmes - some of which may overlap or complement RMA methods (other than rules).

Incorporating statutory acknowledgements into second generation RMA plans

Statutory acknowledgements are statements in Treaty of Waitangi settlements between Crown and iwi that are intended to recognise the mana of tangata whenua groups in relation to identified sites and areas.

Statutory acknowledgements are an acknowledgement by the Crown of the particular cultural, spiritual, historic, and traditional association of an iwi with each statutory site and area.

Text for statutory acknowledgements is included in the schedules to each relevant Claims Settlement Act. The locations for statutory acknowledgement areas are shown on Survey Office (SO) plans. While these plans do not indicate the precise boundaries of the statutory acknowledgement area, they do indicate the location as nearly as possible.

Statutory acknowledgements are only over Crown land and may apply to land, rivers, lakes, wetlands, a landscape feature, or a particular part of the coastal marine area. Where a statutory acknowledgement relates to a river, lake, wetland or coastal area, it only applies to that part of the bed in Crown ownership or control.

There are also some settlement negotiations underway where a final settlement has not been yet reached, but statutory acknowledgements are already in effect through agreements in principle.

Schedule 11 to the RMA includes a list of Treaty settlements that include statutory acknowledgements.

RMA implications

Decision-making in relation to statutory acknowledgement areas is subject to the provisions of Part II of the RMA.

While statutory acknowledgements may vary for each claimant group, a statutory acknowledgement will generally require local authorities to:

  • forward summaries of all relevant resource consent applications to the relevant claimant group governance entity - and provides the governance entity with the opportunity to waive their right to receive summaries
  • have regard to a statutory acknowledgement in forming an opinion as to whether the relevant claimant group may be adversely affected in relation to resource consent applications concerning the relevant statutory area
  • attach, for public information, a record of all statutory acknowledgement areas wholly or partly within the district or region to all regional policy statements, district plans, and regional plans within the claimant area.

None of the above requirements override or limit councils existing obligations under the RMA.

Statutory acknowledgements can also be used in submissions to consent authorities, the Environment Court and the Historic Places Trust, as evidence of a specific claimant group's association with a statutory area.

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.