Consultation with Tangata Whenua

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

The RMAA17 introduces a new process for establishing agreements between tangata whenua (through iwi authorities) and councils. This is known as Mana Whakahono a Rohe – iwi participation arrangements (MWaR-IPA). Agreements can include ways tangata whenua may participate in RMA decision making and they can assist councils with their statutory obligations to tangata whenua under the RMA.   

If a council enters into a MWaR-IPA, any relevant processes undertaken by the council must be consistent with any obligations outlined in the arrangement. See Ministry Guidance on Mana Whakahono a Rohe 

Consultation with tangata whenua under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) is a legal requirement in some circumstances. Even when it is not a legal requirement, consultation with tangata whenua is generally best practice and can lead to a stronger understanding of the issues, and result in better environmental outcomes. 

Consultation requires time and commitment from all the parties involved, whether they be tangata whenua, applicants, council staff or politicians. Consultation is most effective when a mutually trusting relationship is developed. 

This guidance note provides practical advice and tools for councils in facilitating consultation with tangata whenua relating to RMA processes. The information will assist RMA practitioners in understanding the statutory context for consultation with tangata whenua, the benefits of consultation and how to facilitate consultation. 

The Ministry for the Environment (MFE) provides a record of current Mana Whakahono ā Rohe arrangements and provide advisory assistance for questions about Mana Whakahono ā Rohe: email 

In this guidance note, the term 'tangata whenua' is used when referring to consultation with Māori groups with mana whenua over particular areas. Unless otherwise specified, this should be read as being inclusive of consultation with any group that represents tangata whenua interests, be they iwi, runanga, hapū, whanau, iwi authorities, or in some circumstances, taurahere. 

It is important when embarking on any consultation exercise, to understand the differences between different tangata whenua groups. However, through both s35A and clause 3B of the First Schedule, the RMA states that recognised iwi authorities should be the primary point of contact. 

For the definitions of key terms used in this note please refer to the key definitions  section below.