This guide is number 2.1 in a 13-guide series called An Everyday Guide to the RMA.

Publication Reference Number: ME 1534

This guide contains information about the resource consent process under the Resource Management Act (RMA), including when you need a consent and how to apply.


The Resource Management Act 1991 (usually called the RMA) is the main piece of legislation that sets out how we should manage our environment. It’s based on the idea of the sustainable management of our resources, and it encourages us (as communities and as individuals) to plan for the future of our environment.

The RMA means that councils set rules and requirements to manage activities ranging from building houses, clearing vegetation, moving earth, or taking water from a stream. The purpose is to ensure activities won’t harm our neighbours or communities, or damage the air, water, soil and ecosystems that we and future generations need to survive.

The role of councils

Making decisions under the RMA is usually the responsibility of regional and district/city councils. They do this through regional policy statements, plans, and resource consents.

About this guide

This guide is the fifth in a series of 13 guides called An Everyday Guide to the RMA (see more details about the series below).

This guide contains information about the resource consent process, including when you need a consent and how to apply. It is written for applicants – people who apply to their council for resource consents.

In most instances, you will need to apply for a resource consent if you are planning an activity or project that is not permitted by a council plan. However, in certain situations the council can provide a written notice that the activity is permitted, without needing resource consent, if it meets certain statutory criteria.

The guide also covers consent applications that are referred to the Environment Court. If a consent is for a proposal considered to be of national significance, the Minister for the Environment can ‘call in’ the application, and refer it to the Environment Court or to a board of inquiry to make the decision.

The guide has a glossary of RMA terms at the end. 

About the everyday guides

These guides are intended to help people work with their councils. If you’re dealing with the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), a board of inquiry, or the Environment Court (see the glossary to learn more about these), you might need more technical advice from the EPA website or the Environment Court website.

For more information about specific parts of the RMA process, see the full list of guides on our website.

Everyday Guides Series

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