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Change, change, change- how does it affect you?

You may be familiar with District and Regional Plans, but there are other documents sitting above these that are also relevant for resource consents. These sit in a hierarchy, as shown below.

August and September 2020 have been busy months for changes to these higher documents, with:

  • A new National Environmental Standard on Freshwater, in force from 3 September 2020,

  • An updated National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management, in force from 3 September 2020,

  • A new National Policy Statement on Urban Development, in force from 20 August 2020.

So, what do these new documents include and how does this affect your development?

National Environmental Standard on Freshwater

Proper name Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Freshwater) Regulations 2020, this new NES sets requirements for activities that pose risks to freshwater and freshwater ecosystems. The standards are designed to:

  • protect existing inland and coastal wetlands,

  • protect urban and rural streams from in-filling,

  • ensure connectivity of fish habitat (fish passage),

  • set minimum requirements for feedlots and other stockholding areas,

  • improve poor practice intensive winter grazing of forage crops,

  • restrict further agricultural intensification until the end of 2024,

  • limit the discharge of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser to land and require reporting of fertiliser use.

The NES has big implications for some forms of farming, reclaiming watercourse and wetlands. In some cases, activities are prohibited, meaning that you can’t apply for resource consent. If you have a proposal near a watercourse or wetland, make sure you review the NES as part of your preliminary investigations.

National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management

This is an update to the NPS, that was last updated in 2017. The Ministry for the Environment (MfE) has summarised the main changes as:

  • Manage freshwater in a way that ‘gives effect’ to Te Mana o te Wai:

    • through involving tangata whenua

    • working with tangata whenua and communities to set out long-term visions in the regional policy statement

    • prioritising the health and wellbeing of water bodies, then the essential needs of people, followed by other uses.

  • Improve degraded water bodies, and maintain or improve all others using bottom lines defined in the NPS.

  • An expanded national objectives framework:

    • two additional values - threatened species and mahinga kai - join ecosystem health and human health for recreation, as compulsory values

    • councils must develop plan objectives that describe the environmental outcome sought for all values (including an objective for each of the five individual components of ecosystem health)

    • new attributes, aimed specifically at providing for ecosystem health, include fish index of biotic integrity (IBI), sediment, macroinvertebrates (MCI and QMCI), dissolved oxygen, ecosystem metabolism and submerged plants in lakes; councils will have to develop action plans and/or set limits on resource use to achieve these attributes.

    • tougher national bottom lines for the ammonia and nitrate toxicity attributes to protect 95% of species from toxic effects (up from 80%)

    • no national bottom lines for dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) or dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) (as consulted on) but there is a requirement to manage these attributes as they relate to periphyton and other ecosystem health attributes, and to provide for the health of downstream ecosystems.

  • Avoid any further loss or degradation of wetlands and streams, map existing wetlands and encourage their restoration.

  • Identify and work towards target outcomes for fish abundance, diversity and passage and address in-stream barriers to fish passage over time.

  • Set an aquatic life objective for fish andaddress in-stream barriers to fish passage over time.

  • Monitor and report annually on freshwater (including the data used); publish a synthesis report every five years containing a single ecosystem health score and respond to any deterioration.

Councils will be updating their plans to be consistent with this new NPS, so look out for some changes. Any resource consent application related to freshwater and freshwater ecosystems should now also be assessed in relation to these new provisions.

National Policy Statement on Urban Development

This new NPS replaces the NPS on Urban Development Capacity, although there are similarities between the two documents.

The NPS Urban Development focuses on providing well-functioning urban environments (residential and business) and sufficient development capacity. It seeks:

  • urban development that occurs in a way that takes into account the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi (te Tiriti o Waitangi),

  • That plans make room for growth both ‘up’ and ‘out’, and that rules are not unnecessarily constraining growth,

  • development, monitoring and maintenance of an evidence base about demand, supply and prices for housing and land to inform planning decisions,

  • alignment and coordination of planning across urban areas.

The NPS contains objectives and policies related to both plan making and resource consents. This means that while plans will be changed to give effect to the new NPS, you also need to consider the relevant objectives and policies in resource consent assessment.

Want to know how this affects you?

If you think you may be affected by the above changes, give our team a call. You can contact us on or 09 427 9966.


As with all our blogs, the information detailed here is general in nature and meant as a preliminary guide only. This should not be substituted for your own investigations or use of your own professional’s.

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