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Constraints and Opportunities- what’s replacing the RMA?

There is a lot of change happening and a lot of work going on in the RM reform space, so we hope that this blog series is a useful summary for you. This is our second blog in our series on RMA reform.

As we discussed in last week’s blog (which you can see here), the Resource Management Act is to be repealed and replaced with:

  • Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA), as the main replacement for the RMA, with the aim of protecting and restoring the environment while better enabling development,

  • Spatial Planning Act (SPA), which will require the development of long-term regional spatial strategies to help coordinate and integrate decisions made under the relevant legislation,

  • Climate Adaptation Act (CAA), related to the various and often complex issues associated with managed retreat.

In this week’s blog we take an overview look at the Natural and Built Environments Act and the Spatial Planning Act. In future blogs, we will look at these in more detail.

Spatial Planning Act

The Spatial Planning Act (or SPA) will provide for strategic and long-term management of land and the coastal marine area. This formalises an outcome that is already happening (in part) in some areas where multi- agency plans and processes are undertaken, such a regional growth strategies and regional transport strategies. An important role of the Spatial Planning Act will be to provide a framework for the mandatory regional strategic plans.

Spatial plans/ strategies, which usually have a timeframe of 30+ years, would usually provide high level information on:

  • Areas suitable for development.

  • Areas that should be protected from development. This could include important ecological areas, landscapes, heritage areas or areas of importance to mana whenua.

  • Information on existing and future infrastructure. In addition to three waters, this could also include ports, airport, transportation hubs and ways to better utilise existing infrastructure.

  • Information on social needs, such as schools, hospitals etc.

  • Areas subject to development constraints. This could include areas of flooding, instability or other natural hazards.

The Regional Spatial Strategies required under the SPA would have a long-term view and would focus on high level strategic issues and opportunities for a region. The NBA plans (and plans made under other legislation) would contain more detailed outcomes and requirements, and must be consistent with the Regional Spatial Strategy.

The Government has established a new interdepartmental executive board, the Spatial Planning Reform Board, to oversee the development of the Act.

Natural and Built Environments Act

The Natural and Built Environments Act, or NBA as its being shortened to, is the primary piece of legislation to replace the RMA. The Natural and Built Environments Act addresses both the natural and the built environment (land use planning and environmental regulation).

It will work together with the Spatial Planning Act, in particular the Regional Spatial Strategy because all NBA plans must be consistent with the Regional Spatial Strategy.

Some interesting changes things to note include:

  • The Natural and Built Environments Act will seek positive outcomes, rather than managing environmental effects.

  • The Natural and Built Environments Act will require mandatory environmental limits such as those relating to air, biodiversity, habitats and ecosystems, coastal waters, estuaries, freshwater and soil. These are intended to provide environmental “bottom lines”. Environmental effects will still be managed under the same “avoid, remedy, or mitigate” hierarchy, but will be subject to the environmental limits.

  • The NBA elevates recognition of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and iwi/Māori interests. When performing functions under the Natural and Built Environments Act, you must “give effect to” rather than “take account of” the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

  • Natural and Built Environments Act Plans will be developed by Planning Committees instead of local authorities. The Planning Committees will be comprised of representatives of each local authority, the Minister of Conservation, and tangata whenua.

  • There will be one NBA plan per region, requiring different groups to work together. This will result in 14 NBA plans, replacing the over 100 plans and policy statements currently in use under the RMA.

  • The NBA requires a “National Planning Framework” which will provide integrated direction on matters of national significance and matters where national consistency is desirable. We’ll provide more information on this in a separate blog.

  • In addition to being consistent with the relevant Regional Spatial Strategy, NBA plans must also be consistent with the National Planning Framework.

  • The intention is for the NBA Plans to be more specific about activities, with more activities being permitted. Central governments expectation is that fewer resource consents will be required but that is yet to be seen.

There are also changes proposed in relation to resource consents and notification that we'll discuss in next weeks blog.

Want to know more?

This is the second in our blog series on RMA reform, including the Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA) and Spatial Planning Act (SPA). Find out more from our future blogs-

Hannah Thomson is Director of Planning Plusand has over 20 years of resource management experience working in both local government and the private sector. This includes five years at Rodney District Council in roles including Senior Planner and Team Leader. Hannah has a wide range of experience including commercial, rural, residential and coastal development and subdivision on small to large scales and appearances at both Council and Environment Court as an expert witness for mediation and hearings. Hannah has assisted Councils with policy development and has also assisted private individuals with submissions to Council.

Hannah holds the qualifications of BSc (Environmental Science) and Master of Applied Science (Environmental Management), is a Member (Int) of the New Zealand Planning Institute and Secretary of the New Zealand Planning Institute Auckland Branch Committee. Hannah is also a member of the Resource Management Law Association.


As with all our blogs this information is preliminary in nature only and we have used our best endeavours to ensure it is correct at the time of writing. It is not intended to substitute for your own investigations or obtaining specific advice on your proposal from professionals. Planning Plus LtdTM is not liable in any way for any errors or omissions.

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