The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) describes an iwi management plan (IMP) as "…a relevant planning document recognised by an iwi authority and lodged with the council". Section 2 of the Act defines an iwi authority as "the authority which represents an iwi and which is recognised by that iwi as having authority to do so".
IMPs must be taken into account when preparing or changing regional policy statements and regional and district plans (sections 61(2A)(a), 66(2A)(a), and 74(2A) (see What does it mean to 'take into account ' an iwi management plan when preparing or changing a plan?). The RMA is silent on how IMPs are developed, and they therefore assume a variety of shapes and forms.
The RMA establishes three criteria for IMPs to be taken into account when making plans under the RMA; they must be:
- recognised by an iwi authority
- relevant to the resource management issues of the region/district
- lodged with the relevant council(s).
A number of provisions within the RMA provide for Māori interests in resource management. IMPs can assist in implementation of the Act by:
- guiding councils in giving effect to Part 2, particularly sections 6(e), 6(f), 6(g), 7(a), and 8
- informing the preparation or change of regional policy statements and regional and district plans
- informing the preparation and assessment of applications for resource consent.
Iwi planning documents are also provided for under s.16 of the Fisheries (Kaimoana Customary Fishing) Regulations 1998 and s.16 of the Fisheries (South Island Customary Fishing) Regulations 1999 .