This page has guidance on the optional collaborative planning process prescribed in the RMA (for plans and regional policy statements). It also has information on the features and benefits of collaboration.

The collaborative planning process is a prescribed collaborative process contained in Part 4 of Schedule 1 of the RMA. It can be used as an alternative track for developing policy statements and plans. It is optional and available where a council is undertaking a review, change, or preparing a new plan or policy statement including a combined regional and district document.

The collaborative planning process has many of the same requirements as the current planning process in Part 1, Schedule 1.

These include:

  • a publicly notified plan/policy statement
  • submissions/further submissions
  • a submissions summary report with a hearing (by a review panel)
  • appeals (available under specific circumstances).

It also includes additional requirements such as:

  • details around establishing terms of reference
  • a requirement for a report with consensus recommendations
  • a mandatory requirement for the council to ‘give effect’ to the consensus recommendations in the proposed policy statement or plan.

The Planning tracks summary comparison document compares the standard, streamlined and collaborative planning process. It includes factors councils may wish to consider when deciding which process to use such as costs, benefits, opportunities and risks.

Support, guidance and a workshop

If you are considering undertaking a RMA collaborative planning process we encourage you to contact us. We are able to meet with you and to answer any questions you might have about the collaborative planning process. We can also provide on-going support as needed throughout your process.

Guidance on the RMA collaborative planning process

These technical guides on the RMA collaborative planning process are for use by both councils and members of the collaborative group. The guides walk through the legislative requirements and provide links to reference material with examples of current collaborative processes. They discuss the situations when collaboration would be most beneficial and when it may not be needed. They also contain links to resources which will help ensure your collaborative process is successful.


We are also developing a two-day workshop for use by councils for their collaborative group.

  • Day one will provide an overview of the RMA (ie, what is Part 2 and the hierarchy of legislative and planning documents under the RMA). It will provide an introduction to planning and plans (ie, what are objectives, policies and rules).
  • Day-two will be all about collaboration - what it is and what it is not and what makes a collaborative group successful.

The idea is that collaborative group members will gain a common understanding of the planning world they are about to operate within. The training module is still being developed and we welcome suggestions or requests for content. Contact us at

Government examples of collaboration (Biodiversity NPS)

The Government is using a collaborative process to develop a National Policy Statement on Biodiversity.

For more information see the proposed National Policy Statement for biodiversity.

Research reports and case studies

About collaboration

Collaboration is a process where a group of stakeholders with differing views reach agreement on how to resolve issues in a way which is mutually beneficial.

It is sometimes referred to as collaborative governance or consensus orientated decision-making. Whatever it is called a collaborative process will involve a group of stakeholders (the collaborative group) who discuss and reach agreement (consensus recommendations).

Collaborative groups are characterised by the following key features.

  • The group has an agreed set of rules under which discussions take place including an agreed level of certainty that the agreement (consensus recommendation) will be taken up.
  • The group has a clearly defined decision rule. The decision rule is how a consensus recommendation will be considered final. It may range from the person in charge deciding, to a majority (more than 50 per cent agree) or super majority (more than 80 per cent agree) or unanimity (everyone agrees).

Key principles of collaboration

As well as having an agreed set of rules that will apply to the discussions, for collaboration to work in the interests of everybody a number of key principles need to be incorporated into a collaborative group’s design and conduct.

These are:

  1. Representativeness and accountability: A representative process ensures the interests of all relevant stakeholders are effectively advocated for. An accountable process ensures that all participants in the process are answerable to those they represent.
  2. Inclusiveness: This criterion considers how the process provided for input from those outside of the collaborative group, and to what extent all the issues raised were considered.
  3. Deliberativeness: This characterises a process in which views are exchanged, arguments are critically examined, and shared knowledge is built up in a context of civility, respect and trust.
  4. Impartiality: An impartial process treats all parties equally. This is a distinct quality of the process that makes for good deliberation.
  5. Empowerment: This focuses on the extent to which participants are empowered to have a substantial influence on policy outcomes.
  6. Transparency: A transparent process governs itself through clear and public rules.
  7. Lawfulness: A lawful process upholds all existing statutes and regulations.

For more information on these see A draft guide to the collaborative planning process under the Resource Management Act 1991.

Advantages of collaboration

Collaboration is useful when the issues are complex and/or poorly understood and there are strongly held opposing views. As well as producing an agreed way forward, collaboration often has spin-off benefits including building trust between group members, increased networking and a better understanding of the issue and others’ viewpoints.

Collaboration can achieve these benefits because it engages the community in the early stages of the plan-making process.


  • includes a diverse range of participants which ensures issues are explored from different view-points and enables mutually beneficial solutions to be developed
  • untangles complex issues and brings new skills, expertise and perspectives to the process
    increases transparency, accountability and trust
  • generates increased support for the policy once it is implemented.

As a collaborative process engages participants early in the process, it follows an engage-deliberate-decide model rather than the traditional decide-consult-defend model.