The RMA Quality Planning Resource

National policy statements (NPSs) and national environmental standards (NESs) differ in how they influence the wording of plan provisions. NPSs have the purpose of stating objectives and policies for matters of national significance, while NESs prescribe technical standards, methods or requirements.

Under s43A, an NES may:

  • allow an activity (including by way of making it a permitted activity that may or may not be subject to conditions (which could include compliance with plan rules))
  • allow a resource consent application to be made for an activity and can specify the activity status of that activity
  • prohibit an activity
  • restrict the making of a rule or granting of a resource consent to the matters specified in the NES
  • specify the circumstances where an application for a resource consent must be notified or where notification or limited notification is precluded
  • require a certificate of compliance to be obtained
  • require local authorities to review permits under s128(1) as soon as practicable or within a timeframe specified in the NES.

Including NPSs and NESs in plans

Sections 55(2A) to (2D) set out the process for changing plans to give effect to an NPS.

A council must amend its plan or policy statement to include specific objectives and policies or to give effect to specific objectives and policies if an NPS so directs. Where a direction is made under s55(2), councils must directly insert any objectives and policies without using the schedule 1 process, but must publicly notify the changes within five working days of making them. Any further changes required must be done through the schedule 1 process (such as changing rules to give effect).

Where there has been no direction under s55(2), councils must amend their plans or policy statements to give effect to the NPS using the schedule 1 process. The amendments must be made as soon as practicable, unless the NPS specifies a timeframe.

Section 44A sets out the process for changing plans to give effect to NESs. An NES takes immediate effect and may be absolute, effectively overriding affected rules of a plan. Local authorities cannot have plan rules that are more lenient than the NES (s44A(2)(b)), and may only include more stringent controls through rules if the NES provides for this (s44A(2)(a)). Any rules that duplicate or conflict with the provisions of a NES must be removed from a plan. This must be done as soon as practicable after the NES comes into effect without using the Schedule 1 process.

A council must enforce the observance of NESs to the extent to which their powers enable them to do so.

It is good practice to:

  • check any new NPS or NES for the presence of provisions specifying dates by which a local authority is required to amend its policy statements or plans
  • check NPSs for the presence of directives under s55(2) that provide for objectives and policies of an NPS to be directly inserted into a plan without using schedule 1
  • keep copies of all NESs and NPSs and ensure the NESs and NPSs are available for viewing alongside the regional or district plan
  • remember to check by-laws to see if they need amending in light of the introduction of any new NES and NPS
  • record in any decision on resource consent applications that a relevant NPS or NES was considered.