Creating Esplanade Areas Under the RMA

Territorial authorities can determine their own requirements in relation to esplanade areas through plans, or they can fall back on the esplanade requirements under the RMA. Territorial authorities must also give effect to the NZCPS, in addition to any other national policy statement or national environmental standards relevant to esplanade areas.

The RMA generally provides for esplanade areas to be taken or set aside when allotments of less than 4 hectares are created.

However, s77 of the RMA also provides for district plans to include rules to waive, reduce or enlarge the required width of a reserve, to enable a reserve to be taken from allotments of 4 hectares or greater, and for an esplanade strip to be required instead.

Under the RMA an esplanade area can be created in the following circumstances:

  • subdivision of private land
  • reclamations     
  • road stopping
  • conditions on resource consents
  • voluntary creation.

Esplanade areas created through subdivision of private land

Under s230 of the RMA, an esplanade reserve or esplanade strip can be taken for one or more of the purposes of s229 of the RMA, including protection of conservation values, provision of public access, or provision of recreational use (that is compatible with the conservation values) when privately owned land is subdivided.

The taking of an esplanade reserve or esplanade strip when land is subdivided is restricted to allotments which abut the coast, lakes or rivers.

Where an allotment of less than 4 hectares is created, the presumption is that an esplanade reserve of 20 metres width will be set aside where the lot adjoins the coast, rivers whose bed width is an average of 3 metres or more, or lakes whose bed is 8 hectares or more in area.

However, under s77 of the RMA, a rule in a district plan can alter this presumption so that either no reserve is required, or the width of the reserve is to be greater or less than 20 metres, or an esplanade strip is required instead. (Note: s230 of the RMA stipulates that the size threshold applies before any esplanade reserve or strip is actually taken.)

Where an allotment of 4 hectares or greater is created, the presumption is that an esplanade reserve will not be taken on the allotment. Similarly this presumption can be altered under s77 of the RMA by a rule in a district plan that specifies the circumstances in which an esplanade reserve or esplanade strip can be taken. In this case there is no minimum size of the water body to which the requirements apply.

An esplanade reserve taken on subdivision vests in the territorial authority, but may be transferred to the Crown or a regional council by agreement.

Compensation matters are covered separately in the guidance note.

Esplanade areas created through reclamations

A regional council may state in its regional policy statement and/or any relevant regional plans the circumstances where esplanade areas are to be created on a reclamation of river beds, lake beds, or the foreshore and seabed. This will guide the council in determining any esplanade areas that may be required as a condition of granting a resource consent for reclamation, and in conducting its functions in relation to approval of survey plans submitted under s245 of the RMA.

Even if there is no such policy in place, a regional council can require the creation of an esplanade area as a condition on any specific resource consent that it grants for a reclamation under s108(2)(g) of the RMA.

Esplanade areas created through road stopping

Section 345(3) of the LGA 1974 requires the first 20 metres of any road stopped adjoining the coast, rivers over 3 metres wide and lakes over 8 hectares to be set aside as an esplanade reserve. This includes paper roads. Under s77 of the RMA the width of any such reserve can be varied by a rule in a district plan.

Esplanade areas created through conditions on resource consents

Under s108(2) and s108(9) of the RMA, esplanade reserves or strips can be imposed as a condition on any resource consent provided they are in accordance with the purposes specified in a district or regional plan.

See the Resource Consent Conditions guidance note for further details on how financial contributions work under the RMA. Development contributions can also be taken for reserve purposes under the Local Government Act 2002.

Esplanade areas voluntarily created

Voluntary creation of esplanade reserves, strips and access strips can be initiated between a land owner and a territorial authority at any time.

Under s239 of the RMA esplanade reserves can be voluntarily made where land owners vest land to a territorial authority for reserve purposes under the Reserves Act 1977.

Esplanade strips can be voluntarily created under s235 of the RMA for the purposes outlined in s229. Under s235 no instrument for an esplanade strip can be registered with the District Land Registrar unless every person having a registered interest in the land has endorsed their consent on the instrument.

Access strips can be created through agreement at any time under s237B of the RMA.

Esplanade and access strips should be created in accordance with Schedule 10 of the RMA and be in the prescribed form, Form 31 for esplanade strips and Form 32 for access strips of the RMA Forms, Fees and Procedure Regulations 2003.

There is no restriction on the width of the river, size of lake or the size of the reserve itself, to which voluntary creation of an esplanade area applies.