Resource Management Act 1991

The RMA is a key piece of legislation that sets out how we should manage our environment. New resource management laws are being phased in, but many parts of the RMA will remain in place for several years. 

Full text

Resource Management Act 1991 [New Zealand Legislation website]

About the Act

As well as managing air, soil, fresh water and coastal marine areas, the RMA regulates land use and the provision of infrastructure, which are integral components of Aotearoa New Zealand’s resource management system.

Reforms to the system are being phased in to help protect and manage the environment and enable development.  

The Spatial Planning Act and the Natural and Built Environment Act began coming into effect on 24 August 2023. 

Some changes apply immediately. However, most will come into effect later on, and at different times in different regions. Many parts of the RMA will remain in place until then. 

A new resource management system for Aotearoa New Zealand

Why it was created

The RMA was created in October 1991 to achieve a more coordinated, streamlined, and comprehensive approach to environmental management. It replaced or amended more than 50 existing laws relating to town planning and resource management.

The RMA has brought a number of benefits. Importantly, New Zealand’s natural and physical resources are now managed in a sustainable framework, with a raft of environmental bottom-lines.

While the RMA provides an overarching guide on what’s best for our environment, with national direction on significant issues, it allows communities to make decisions on how their own environment is managed through regional and district resource management plans. Decisions on resource consents are made with consideration to these plans, national direction and the objectives in the RMA.

This framework means that most decisions on resource management are made by local government who also have a wider planning role in transport, infrastructure and economic development. The RMA also recognises the Treaty of Waitangi in decision making.

Regulations under the Act

The regulations under the RMA covering a broad range of activities.

They include:

  • requiring authority approvals
  • heritage protection authority approvals
  • forms, fees and procedure
  • marine pollution
  • metering of water takes
  • national environmental standards for contaminants in soil, drinking water, electricity transmission, air quality, air pollutants, and plantation forestry
  • dissolution of the Waitaki Water Allocation Board.