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Resource consents and RMA Reform- what changes?

Resource Consents are changing. What does that mean for you and your development?

You’ll have seen from our earlier blogs on the RM Reform underway, and that the Resource Management Act (RMA) will be replaced by:

· Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA),

· Spatial Planning Act (SPA),

· Climate Adaptation Act (CAA).

The National and Built Environments Act (NBA) is the main replacement for the RMA and will include the new consenting regime. In this blog we take an overview look some of the changes to resource consents- noting that detail is yet to come from central government.

New plans will be developed under the National and Built Environments Act (NBA), with one NBA plan per region. 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 it’s likely this will be for the lower risk activity types. In general, it’s expected that there will be a reduced role for resource consents as a result of the NBA plans, however resource consents will still be required in many instances.

Where resource consent is needed, NBA plans will seek to create a simplified resource consent process, such as by:

  • Placing limits on the information that can be requested in consent applications

  • Less use of discretionary activity status

  • A national consenting pathways

  • Standardising consent conditions

  • The use of Design guidelines and use of urban design panels for medium and high density Developments pre-consented model or multiple-use house/townhouse designs

  • Enabling better evaluation of the national or regional opportunity costs

  • Streamlining processes related to infrastructure.

The role of the Environment and appeal rights will also change.

Assessment will change from a focus on being effects- based to including more outcomes-based assessment. One criticism of the RMA is it’s too focused on managing adverse effects on the environment, rather than promoting positive outcomes. Processes under the Natural and Built Environments Act seek to place more focus on outcomes. In addition, the Natural and Built Environments Act will still require that adverse environmental effects are avoided, remedied or mitigated but also seeks to ensure that these measures do not place unreasonable costs on development and resource use. Another goal is to reduce consideration of amenity values, without encouraging poor quality design. These changes will all result in changes to the way that a resource consent is assessed, the information required, and outcomes achieved.

There will undoubtedly be a difficult transition period, while all people involved grapple with not only changing processes but changes to assessments required. There are also early indications that some of the changes indicated in the NBA (and Spatial Planning Act) require more work and refinement from central government to function well, and of course sufficient resourcing is needed to ensure that the transition is well managed and efficient.

Some of the changes sought will be through non- statutory plans and guidelines; it remains to be seen how many developers will utilise these guidelines and how useful they will be in specific circumstances. It may be difficult to obtain the urban design outcomes that central government is seeking via non- statutory methods.

More details of new consenting processes will be provided as the RM Reforms continue.

Want to know more?

Keep an eye on our website for more blogs in the coming weeks on RM Reform, in particular changes to consenting related processes. This is the third in our blog series on RMA reform, including the Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA) and Spatial Planning Act (SPA). You can see our other blogs on our website-

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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