Writing Provisions for Plans

This note has been updated for 2017 and 2020 amendments but not updated for best practice. 

The way in which RMA plans are written can greatly affect their efficiency, effectiveness, and ease of administration and enforcement. Writing an effective, enforceable and user-friendly plan requires robust processes to be followed, skill, and attention to detail. This guidance note is a companion guidance note to 'Structuring and Organising Regional and District Plans' and provides a starting point for those writing provisions.

checklist is provided for practitioners involved in writing plan provisions. The example checklist is designed to be adapted by individual local authorities to meet their particular drafting requirements and practices and could form part of an internal plan drafting guideline or protocol.

Plans and plan provisions have evolved significantly since the first generation of plans under the RMA were notified. Submissions, case law, and experience in plan administration have assisted in improving the robustness of provisions and the workability of plans, though sometimes at a significant cost. The first generation of plans resulted in variable format and wording as councils explored ways to the meet RMA requirements. This guidance note builds on the lessons learned during the preparation and implementation of first-generation RMA plans and reduces the need for practitioners to revisit lessons of the past, while also moving towards a more consistent style of plan provision drafting.

A degree of commonality and consistency in how plan provisions are written is considered important to:

  • assist those complying with, or implementing, plans in understanding how significant case law may impact on any given plan
  • allow councils and consultants to more readily share and adapt provisions for use in other plans
  • allow staff transferring from one council to another to quickly adapt to interpret the plan of their new employer
  • allow similarities and differences between plans to be quickly identified and evaluated by those preparing, using or monitoring plans
  • reduce interpretation issues from plan to plan
  • make it easier for central government to prepare national policy statements and national environmental standards that better align with the content and provision writing style of regional and district plans.