Powers and Procedures – s330 of the RMA

Purpose of the powers

Section 330 of the RMA contains the powers that apply to local and consent authorities, network utility operators, lifeline utilities, and persons in charge of public works, including persons acting on their behalf (who have been delegated authority).

Sections 330(1)(a), 330(1)(c) and 330(1)(ca) cover all public works, network utility operations (whether or not they are the subject of a designation in accordance with Part 8 of the RMA), and lifeline utilities. The definition of public work is the same as in the Public Works Act 1981. This definition is wide-ranging, including works undertaken by both local authorities and Ministers of the Crown. It also includes public reserves and national park purposes. The intention of this provision is to secure the important public or economic functions (and benefits) of public works and utility operations from the adverse environmental effects of emergency events.

Section 330(1)(b) relates to any natural or physical resource or area for which a consent authority has jurisdiction. This provision is less specific and has wider potential use for when any adverse effect needs immediate intervention. Practically, however, a consent authority is only likely to use emergency powers when the physical assets within its jurisdiction are under significant threat. This power does not extend to network utility operators, lifeline utilities, or other persons in charge of public works.

Section 330(2) provides a consent authority with wider powers than is usual for network utility operators, lifeline utilities, and persons in charge of public works, in respect of entry onto private property.

Powers of a local or consent authority

Section 330 of the RMA authorises consent authorities to undertake emergency works on both public and private property where the emergency relates to any:

  • public work for which it has financial responsibility

  • natural and physical resource or area over which it has jurisdiction under the RMA.

Under s330(2) of the RMA a local or consent authority may:

  • enter any place (includes land, structures or buildings - which include homes when accompanied by a constable)

  • take action to remove the cause of the emergency, or mitigate any actual or likely adverse effect thereof

  • direct the occupier to take such action.

Section 330(2) of the RMA therefore allows a local or consent authority to override property rights that would ordinarily restrict its entry and actions. The most common example is for private property, but by virtue of the words 'any place' it might also include a conservation estate, or government installation to which a person does not have free access.

Anyone deciding whether to exercise powers under s330(2) of the RMA should note that the choice between removing the cause of the emergency, as opposed to mitigating effects, will depend on the circumstances. One needs to bear in mind the need to act responsibly, having regard to the public interest considerations and the private rights of the individual. Whichever objective is appropriate, the action must conform to that which is ''immediately necessary and sufficient'' for the relevant purpose.