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Resource Management Reform – How does it all fit together?

Central government is introducing a new planning regime to replace the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA), with the aim being to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the system, have more integration and achieve better outcomes. The Ministry for the Environment has been progressing resource management reform since 2020- but with lots of Acts, plans, acronyms and dates in the distant future it can all be pretty confusing! This is the second blog in our series on the RM reform and where it’s all up to. You can access the rest here.

In this blog we talk a little about the framework, and how everything fits together.

It’s a hierarchy

The new planning framework orders the documents in a hierarchy (and a little bit to the side!)- everything lower down the chain must be consistent with everything above it. This is similar to how the RMA and all the current plans work. But what does this look like under the new system?

The new Acts

Firstly, the new planning regime includes three new Acts which have been put in place to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the resource management system. These Acts all work alongside each other.

  1. Natural and Built Environments Act (NBEA) –to protect and restore the environment while better enabling development, as the primary replacement for the RMA.

  2. Spatial Planning Act (SPA) – Provides long term strategy and a formal framework for spatial planning through requiring the development of long-term regional spatial strategies.

  3. Climate Adaptation Act (CAA) – Supports response to climate change to address complex issues associated with managed retreat.

Source: Ministry for the Environment

National Planning Framework

The National Planning Framework (NPF) is secondary legislation under the Natural and Built Environments Act and it will consolidate national environment policy statements, planning standards and regulations into one document. In effect, it is “national direction” as noted under the current RMA system. This document will sit towards the top of the hierarchy as shown in the figure above, impacting on the contents of Regional Spatial Strategies and Natural and Built Environment Plans.

The purpose of this document is to set national policies and standards, specifically a national direction for the environment and development. This will help to provide direction for regional planning.

The first iteration of the National Planning Framework is intended to provide high-level direction for Regional Planning Committees in relation to strategic direction and identification of natural hazards at the regional level and opportunities to improve resilience.

Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS)

The Regional Spatial Strategy is required by the Spatial Planning Act. Each region will develop a Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) which must be consistent with the national direction set in the National Planning Framework. Regional Planning Committees (RPC) will be responsible for developing the Regional Spatial Strategy which will be undertaken in consultation with the local community.

The Regional Spatial Strategy will be a high level and long-term long term (30- 100 years) strategy which will set out a region’s development and environmental goals. Areas the strategies will cover include transport, building, infrastructure, environmental protection, and restoration.

Natural and Built Environment Plans

Natural and Built Environment Plans (NBE Plans) are required by the Natural and Built Environment Act and must be consistent with the National Planning Framework and the Regional Spatial Strategy. The Natural and Built Environment Plans are also developed for each region, rather than at a city or district level as usually occurs now under the RMA. This is similar to the Auckland Unitary Plan, which relates to the entire Auckland region.

NBE plans for each region (15 plans) will replace over 100 regional policy statements, district and regional plans. These plans will set out rules for use of land and other resources and rules and methods for consenting. The intention is that less consents will be needed, but also that more people will be involved in the plan development stage (the RSS and NBE Plans). We’ll look more into NBE plans and consenting in the following 2 weeks’ blogs.

Slow but steady?

Undoubtedly there will be a long transition before the new planning regime is fully implemented and takes over from the RMA, let alone the other changes happening at the moment that may result in delays in the process.

The upcoming general election on 14 October 2023 will cause further uncertainty and changes to the RM reform, with different political party’s suggesting different changes to the Acts.

It will be interesting to see what would happen as the RM reform continues.

Want to know more?

Will resource management reform affect your development? Discussing the implications with a planner who’s keeping on top of all the proposed changes is more important than ever! The Planning Plus team are regularly attending training, seminars and reviewing MfE documents to ensure we’re giving our clients the most accurate advice for their specific project. You can contact us on or (09) 427 9966.

Helen is a Principal Planner at Planning Plus® and has over 15 years’ experience in planning and environmental consulting. Helen's experience includes the preparation of resource consents, compliance monitoring, environmental auditing, community consultation and environmental fund coordination. Her background has provided her with a wide range and thorough understanding of technical and environmental inputs.

Helen holds a Bachelor of Applied Science (Environmental Science) and Bachelor of Business (Management) Conjoint Degree and is an Associate Member of the New Zealand Planning Institute.


As with all our blogs this information is preliminary in nature only and 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.

© Planning Plus Ltd 2023

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