The Resource Management Act requires councils to manage natural and physical resources in their area. To do this, they must prepare district or regional plans.
- set the objectives, policies, and rules that encourage or deter activities, depending on whether they might harm the environment
- specify what types of activities can take place as of right, and those that need a resource consent.
New Zealand has 11 regional councils, 61 city or district councils, and six unitary councils.
A regional plan is created by a regional council and concerns issues that affect the coast, air, water or land.
A district plan is created by a city or district council and concerns the management of land use and subdivision in a city or district.
A unitary plan is created by a unitary council, which has combined city or district council and regional council functions.
Sometimes national environmental standards override the plan rules, to provide a consistent set of rules across all councils. See Understanding national direction.
A resource consent is permission from the local council for an activity that might affect the environment, and that isn’t allowed ‘as of right’ in the district or regional plan.
Every day, people ask their local council for resource consents to do things – put up a garage, subdivide their property, build a multi-storey apartment block, take water from a stream.
Types of resource consent
There are five types of consent, set out in table 1.
Table 1: Types of resource consents and examples of activities
|Five types of resource consent||Responsible authority||Examples|
|Land-use consent||Regional councils, district/city councils||
|Subdivision consent||District/city councils||
|Coastal permit||Regional councils||
|Water permit||Regional councils||
|Discharge permit||Regional councils||
Councils usually manage applications for resource consent. In this role they are called consent authorities.
When deciding whether to grant a consent, the council considers several factors, including the effects of your proposal on the environment, and the council’s RMA plan.
The rules on resource management differ between districts and regions. It’s best not to assume that because you didn’t need a consent in one town, you won’t need it in another. There are also likely to be differences within a district, city or region.
Projects that don’t need a consent are classified as permitted activities in a plan or national environment standard.
However, certain activities may be exempted from resource consent requirements under the RMA (only if they meet certain statutory requirements) and they are:
- Deemed permitted boundary activities. This is where the affected neighbour gives written approval. Common examples include yard setbacks and building height.
- Deemed permitted marginal or temporary activities. Councils at their discretion may waive resource consent requirement for marginal or temporary rule breach. This is where any adverse effects remain the same (with or without your activity), and are “less than minor” on a person.
Table 2 shows the four types of activity that need a consent.
Table 2: Activities that need a consent
|Controlled||Must grant consent|
|Restricted discretionary, discretionary, or non-complying||Can grant or refuse consent|
Applying for a resource consent
© Ministry for the Environment