The RMA Quality Planning Resource

Long Term Plans

The Local Government Act 2002 requires local authorities to prepare Long Term Plans to describe the activities and strategic direction of the local authority over a 10-year period. Long Term Plans can include descriptions of local authority activities in relation to functions of regional councils and territorial authorities including the management of natural hazards. Long Term Plans can also outline desired community outcomes in respect of natural hazards that can in turn inform other plans and strategies such as RPSs, regional plans and district plans. A Long Term Plan is quite broad in what it can contain. It can contain maps and general information that can be used to help educate the community about local hazards. The special consultative procedures under the Local Government Act 2002 allow local authorities to identify activities and funding for the management of natural hazards. The Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment provide information on the community consultation processes under the Local Government Act.

Asset and infrastructure management plans

Asset and infrastructure management plans deal with the procedures and works required to meet functional requirements of assets and infrastructure. They are generally prepared by local authorities (under the Local Government Act 2002) and network utility providers, and specify levels of service and performance measures for infrastructure. Asset management plans for stormwater systems can directly address flooding by setting specific levels of service for stormwater infrastructure and specifying performance measures to assess the success of these activities. Asset management plans can also serve as mechanisms for setting aside funds for future hazard mitigation.

In some areas, climate change will lead to more frequent high intensity rainfall requiring specific responses such as higher capacity stormwater systems. See climate change resources on:

 

Building Act 2004

The Building Act 2004 prescribes the legal requirements for all buildings in New Zealand.

Section 37 of the Act allows local authorities to delay building work until a resource consent is gained. This provision can be used where development is taking place on hazard-prone land and plan rules require a resource consent.

Sections 71 to 74 relate to building consent limitations and restrictions for the construction of buildings on land subject to natural hazards.

Sections 71-74 of the Building Act 2004

Section 71: requires a building consent authority (such as the council) to refuse to grant a building consent for construction of a building, or for major alterations to a building if the land on which the building work is to be carried out is subject or is likely to be subject to one or more natural hazards, or the building work is likely to accelerate, worsen, or result in a natural hazard on that land or any other property. However, s71 provides an exception that allows the building consent to be granted if adequate provision has been made to protect the land or building work, or to restore any damage to the land or other property as a result of the building work.

Section 72: building consent authorities must grant building consent for building work on land subject to natural hazards if the building work will not accelerate, worsen, or result in a natural hazard, and it is reasonable to grant a waiver or modification of the building code in respect of the natural hazard concerned.

Section 73: provides for the insertion of a notification condition (on the title for the property) within any consent granted under s72. These conditions can relate to structural requirements for flood, wind, fire, earthquake and volcanic hazards.

Section 74: provides that where a building consent has been granted for land subject to a natural hazard, the building consent authority must notify the Surveyor-General, the Registrar of the Maori Land Court or the Registrar-General of Land. The District Land Registrar will then include an entry on the certificate of title to the land (i.e. a covenant) that building consent has been issued in respect of building on land which is subject to erosion, avulsion, alluviation, falling debris, subsidence, inundation or slippage.

The Building Code is a regulation that accompanies the Building Act 2004, and outlines the performance expectations for buildings. One method of demonstrating compliance with the Building Code is the AS/NZ 1170 Structural Design Actions standard. The standard includes loading requirements for soil, wind, earthquake, ice, and snow. The standard does not include loading requirements for land movement, volcanic activity or tsunami.

The Building Act 2004 also covers dam construction and dam safety management for large dams. This was introduced to ensure that dams are well built, that larger dams are regularly monitored, and that the potential risks to people and property are minimised. See more information on the Building Act 2004 and dam safety.

Hazard registers

A hazard register is a collection of resources that identify man-made and/or natural hazards on properties in a district and region. Some examples of hazards are flooding risk, land instability, fire risk, active faults and coastal erosion. These hazards should be recorded to ensure that people can make best use of their properties and avoid potential issues of health and safety to both people and property in the future.

Ideally, hazard registers are stored on a Geographical Information System (GIS) system, with a system in place for updating, validating, and storing the hazard information. Information for hazard registers can be obtained from a number of sources.

An important aspect of a hazard register is ensuring that hazard information from regional and district councils is included, and that the information stored is linked into other council functions, such as the provision of information in LIMs and PIMs. This means information must be in compatible formats. A hazard register should include a disclaimer outlining the limitations of any information recorded.

Research and investigation

Hazard research and investigation increases the current state of knowledge of natural hazards. Central and local government, crown research organisations, academic institutions and private companies are all engaged in natural hazard research and investigation. Research can:

  • contribute to a better understanding of the impact of natural hazards on New Zealanders
  • increase public awareness about natural hazards and their effects
  • improve understanding about ways of managing natural hazard risk

It is important that new information obtained through research and investigation is included and collated in the hazards register as it becomes available.

Non-statutory plans and guidelines

Structure plans and growth strategies can provide for the integrated management of an area. As part of the development of these mechanisms, areas susceptible to natural hazards can be identified and avoided before the expectation for development occurs. Most structure plans are implemented, to a large extent, by provisions in district plans.

Coastal management strategies provide the policy basis and direction for management in coastal areas. Because such strategies are non-statutory, they are able to provide direction for a wide range of council and community functions within coastal areas, including natural hazards, and for community engagement.

Design guidelines can provide guidance on how to develop and design for particular natural hazards. For example, low impact design approaches can encourage recognition and development within hazard limitations for a site.

Specific hazard strategies, mitigation and contingency plans

Specific hazard plans can be used to set out actions for a specific hazard. They are often more CDEM/operationally focussed than land use planning focussed. Specific hazard plans include risk mitigation plans, contingency plans and management plans.

Acquiring or purchasing land and the relocation of development

The acquisition, purchasing or relocation of a development due to a natural hazard risk is still very much a reactionary rather than a proactive approach in New Zealand, and is often used as a last-minute solution to a problem.

Ideally, a strategy should be in place before an event occurs, and should cover all three options if an area is at high risk from a hazardous event. Otherwise, a post-event discussion should be held to decide whether to reinstate an area (with mitigation measures) or relocate. Any decision will need to consider social, environmental and economic factors, and a full risk assessment should be completed on any new site.

Section 229(a)(v) of the RMA anticipates that esplanade reserves and esplanade strips can be used for the mitigation of natural hazards. The acquiring of land adjacent to waterways can be used as a means of creating 'no-build' buffer areas against flooding, inundation and erosion.

Community awareness, education and engagement

Community awareness, education and engagement are important factors to consider when managing risk from natural hazards. Research has shown that good general community development strategies will enhance a community's resilience to natural disasters, by creating a more empowered and capable community.

Education can also enhance community understanding of processes related to resource management planning (for example, if educated, people may understand that they need to check for hazards on LIMs when purchasing a house). Information needs to be presented using terms and concepts that people can understand.

The Long Term Plan, and its associated consultation process, can collect and display information about community understanding of hazards, and requirements for future plans regarding hazard management.

Managing residual risk needs to be addressed through community engagement and development programmes as RMA planning alone cannot solve such issues.

Coordinating hazard risk management

A range of statutes are applicable to the management of natural hazards in New Zealand. The integration of the functions and responsibilities required under each of these statutes is key to developing an integrated approach to natural hazards. The following are some ways that territorial authorities can achieve greater integration.

The Building Act 2004

  • ensures that structural mitigation approved through the building consent process is consistent with the hazard approach set out in the applicant's RMA plans and, conversely, that those RMA plans are not inconsistent with the Building Code.
  • ensures that information collected for PIMs is recorded and stored in a hazards register and is made available for those preparing plans or assessing resource consents.

The Resource Management Act 1991

  • hazard information from PIMs and LIMs should be fed into a hazards register that is able to inform the preparation of plans.
  • information from resource consent applications should be collated and, if possible, checked, and then entered into a hazards register to assist those processing PIMs and LIMs, other resource consents, and the preparation of RMA plans and other council planning documents.

The Local Government Act 2002

  • Long Term Plans should take into account council hazard functions under the RMA and CDEM Acts.
  • The Long Term Plan can be used as a way of coordinating and feeding hazard management plans into RMA policy statements and plans, council asset management plans, annual plans, and other documents such as reserve management plans.     

The Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987

  • ensures that the information collected for LIMs is stored in a central hazards register (or similar) and is available for the preparation of district and regional plans.

The CDEM Act 2002

  • ensures that the preparation of the RPS, regional plans and district plans takes account of the CDEM Group Plan and vice versa.

The coordination between the RMA and emergency management plans can be strengthened by involving policy staff in the review of the CDEM Group Plan and vice versa. The lessons learnt in this process will strengthen links between these two council functions and the staff involved in them.

It is important to encourage cooperation between emergency management and RMA staff and coordination of their hazard risk management approaches. Internal council governance structures for managing hazards (at officer and political levels) need to bridge RMA and emergency management specialisations. One way to achieve this is through an officers' working group that advises on hazard issues across a council and region.

Knowledge changes over time as the information regarding hazards improves and is updated. It is important for local authorities to identify how this information is passed on to staff. This is a particular issue where the turnover of staff assessing proposed developments is high or where important information is obtained while on the job. One way to improve staff knowledge of issues is through the development and implementation of hazard guidelines for staff which cover the use of hazard registers, GIS and databases, and external data sets. Staff should be trained to increase their awareness of the guidelines and to understand their role in managing natural hazards. A framework for capturing, storing and retrieving data should consider:

  • who is responsible for the content of the database/register
  • how data is collected and captured
  • when, and what, information is included
  • how information can be consolidated
  • how, and to whom, the information will be distributed or communicated.

Once a framework is implemented, staff should ensure their knowledge of a particular site is included.

Local authorities can also improve internal hazard management integration by:

  • assigning responsibility for hazard management to a specific position or department
  • improving the connections between policy development and policy implementation
  • improving the knowledge and awareness of staff and elected members through education
  • involving other departments (for example, engineering, planning, and resource management) in hazard management activities.

LIM and PIM Information for natural hazards

A LIM (land information memorandum) is a summary of all the information that a council holds on a particular piece of land or building and is prepared in accordance with the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987. A LIM is a council report prepared for people considering purchasing a property. It provides information identifying each (if any) special feature or characteristic of the land concerned, including potential natural hazards. This includes, but is not limited to, potential erosion, avulsion, falling debris, subsidence, slippage, alluvion, or inundation. (See the list of information provided in a LIM).

A PIM (project information memorandum) is a summary of all the information the council holds on the land relating to a particular building consent, project or work, and outlines other consents required to complete that project or work. A PIM is prepared by council on request in accordance with the Building Act for all larger projects, new houses, large alterations and new commercial or industrial buildings. A PIM is useful in establishing the feasibility and design practicality of a project. (See the list of information provided in a PIM.)

When including hazard information on LIMs and PIMs, councils need to verify the accuracy of information and identify the liability issues associated with hazard identification.

A central hazards register should be used and updated as a source of information for LIMs and PIMs. Any hazards register should have a well documented process in place for collecting, storing and retrieving information. Any information that is documented within a council may be subject to official information requests, and therefore if certain hazard information is not included within the hazard register for LIMs and PIMs, councils may be vulnerable to liability issues in the future.

Information provided in a land information memoranda (LIM)

LIMs are issued under s44A of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987. They may include the following information:

(2)

      
  1. Information identifying each (if any) special feature or characteristic of the land concerned, including, but not limited to potential erosion, avulsion [removal of land by water action and its possible attachment to other land], falling debris, subsidence, slippage, alluvion [deposition of silt from flooding], or inundation, of likely presence of hazardous contaminants, being a feature or characteristic that -
    1. Is known to the local authority; but
    2. Is not apparent from the district scheme under the Town and Country Planning Act 1977 or a district plan under the Resource Management Act 1991
  2. Information on private and public stormwater and sewerage drains as shown in the territorial authority's records
  3. Information on any rates owing in relation to the land  
  4. Information concerning any consent, certificate, notice, order, or requisition affecting the land or any building on the land previously issued by the territorial authority (whether under the Building Act 1991, the Building Act 2004 or any other Act)
  5. Information concerning any certificate issued by a building certifier pursuant to the Building Act 1991 or the Building Act 2004  
  6. Information relating to the use the land may be put and conditions attached to that use [for example, plan provisions associated with the zoning]
  7. Information which, in terms of any other Act, has been notified to the territorial authority by any statutory organisation having the power to classify land or buildings for any purpose  
  8. Any information which has been notified to the territorial authority by any network utility operator pursuant to the Building Act 1991 or the Building Act 2004.

(3)

In addition to the information provided for in subsection (2) of this section, a territorial authority may provide in the memorandum such other information concerning the land as the authority considers, at its discretion, to be relevant.

Note that notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987, there are no grounds for the territorial authority to withhold information specified under s44A or to refuse to provide a land information memorandum where this has been requested.

Information provided in a project information memoranda (PIM)

PIMs are issued under s34 of the Building Act 2004. On receiving an application for a building consent, the building consent authority (which may or may not be the local authority itself) must apply for a PIM from the territorial authority within whose district the work is being carried out. Alternatively, a property or building owner may apply directly to the territorial authority for a PIM if they are considering carrying out building work and a building consent will be needed for that work.

The content of a PIM is set out in s35 of the Building Act:

(1)

A project information memorandum must include:

      
  1. Information likely to be relevant to the proposed building work that identifies-
    1. the heritage status of the building (if any); and
    2. each special feature of the land concerned (if any)
  2. Information likely to be relevant to the proposed building work that, in terms of any other Act, has been notified to the territorial authority by a statutory authority  
  3. Details of any existing stormwater or wastewater utility systems that-
    1. relate to the proposed building work; or
    2. are on, or adjacent to, the site of the proposed building work
  4. details of any authorisation in respect of the proposed building work that the territorial authority, on its own behalf and on behalf of any network utility operator (if the territorial authority is acting as agent for a network utility operator by prior agreement with the network utility operator), is authorised to refuse or require under any Act, except this Act, and in respect of each authorisation,-     
    1. a statement of the requirements to be met in order for the authorisation to be granted or imposed; and
    2. the conditions to which an authorisation will be subject
  5. if the territorial authority considers that the owner of the building or proposed building to which the project information memorandum relates is likely to be required, under s21A of the Fire Service Act 1975, to make provision for a scheme that provides for evacuation from the scene of a fire, a statement to that effect  
  6. if the territorial authority considers that notification to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust is likely to be required under s
  7. 39, a statement to that effect
  8. either- 
    1. confirmation, subject to this Act, that building work may be carried out subject to the requirements of a building consent and subject also to all other necessary authorisations being obtained; or 
    2. notification that building work may not be carried out because any necessary authorisation has been refused , despite the issue of building consent
  9. if s75 applies, the statement referred to in s75(2);

(2) In this section,-

land concerned-

  1. means the land on which the proposed building work is to be carried out; and
  2. includes any other land likely to affect or be affected by the building work.

special feature of the land concerned includes, without limitation, potential natural hazards, or the likely presence of hazardous contaminants, that-

  1. is likely to be relevant to the design and construction or alteration of the building or proposed building
  2. is known to the territorial authority; and
  3. is not apparent from the district plan under the Resource Management Act 1991.

Note that information provided under s35 that is relevant to hazards could include:

  • information on special land features such as:
    • erosion
    • avulsion (removal of land by water action)
    • falling debris
    • subsidence
    • slippage
    • alluvion (the deposition of silt from flooding)
    • known active faults
    • presence of hazardous contaminants which are likely to be relevant to the design, construction or alteration of your proposed building which are known to council
  • information notified to council by any statutory organisation, such as the New Zealand Historic Places Trust or the Department of Conservation, which has the power to classify land or buildings for any purpose
  • details of stormwater or wastewater utility systems which relate to your proposed building work, or which are adjacent to your building site
  • details of any authorisations under other Acts which the council requires, and details of the requirements to be met in the granting of these authorisations and the conditions they will be subject to. The most common authorisations will be resource consents required under the Resource Management Act 1991.

The memorandum will also include either:

  • confirmation, subject to other provisions of the Act, that you may carry out the building work subject to the requirements of the building consent and subject also to all other necessary authorisations being obtained, or
  • notification that building work may not be undertaken.