About the national planning standards

The planning standards were introduced as part of the 2017 amendments to the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA). Their development is enabled by sections 58B–58J of the RMA.

They support implementation of other national direction such as national policy statements and help people to comply with the procedural principles of the RMA.

They are issued by the Minister for the Environment. To the extent that a matter relates to the coastal marine area, the Minister of Conservation approves a planning standard.

Why they are needed

Currently, plans and policy statements prepared under the RMA are inconsistent with each other and slow and costly to prepare. They can be hard to understand, compare and comply with. This is because councils have generally developed their plans and policy statements independently of each other and without a common structure and format as a reference point.

The wide variation in the structure and format of plans has also meant that other national direction such as national policy statements are often interpreted and implemented in different ways, reducing the effectiveness of these instruments.

The Rules Reduction Taskforce found that plans and policy statements are complex to the extent that people at all levels need specialist knowledge and experience to understand their provisions. For more information see the taskforce’s report:

The loopy rules report: New Zealanders tell their stories - executive summary [Department of Internal Affairs website]

The planning standards are an opportunity to standardise the basic elements of RMA plans and policy statements. They enable councils and plan users to focus their resources on the matters that directly influence resource management outcomes.

Scope and contents of planning standards

Under section 58C of the RMA, planning standards can specify different elements of plans and policy statements including:

  • objectives
  • policies
  • methods (including rules)
  • other provisions
  • structure and form
  • requirements that relate to electronic accessibility and functionality.

They can also be applied generally, to specific regions or districts or to other parts of New Zealand. The RMA specifies default timeframes for the implementation of 'mandatory'; directions (which do not follow an RMA Schedule One process) though alternative timeframes can also be set in the planning standards. Timeframes for ‘discretionary’ directions can be specified in the planning standard and must be applied to the local context using an RMA Schedule One process.