The purpose of this glossary is to help you understand the meaning of terms used in this guide. Some of these terms have specific legislative definitions in section 2 of the RMA.


Request for a decision to be changed, predominantly to the Environment Court.

Conference of experts

A meeting between expert witnesses.


A provision in a district plan that provides notice to the community of an intention by the council or other requiring authority to use land in the future for a particular work or project.

District plan

A plan prepared by city or district councils to help them carry out their functions under the RMA.

Friend of the submitter

A person who is appointed to help submitters through the process.

Freshwater hearings panel

A panel appointed by the Chief Freshwater Commissioner to hear and make recommendations on a proposed freshwater planning instrument to the council.

Freshwater planning process

A specific plan-making process councils must use for proposed regional policy statements and regional plans (including plan changes) which relate to freshwater.

Further submission

An opportunity for certain people to comment on other people’s original submissions on a proposed plan or variation, by supporting or opposing these.


Gives people who have already written submissions the chance to speak to the decision-maker, about what a council or an applicant is proposing.

Limited notification

A council only notifies people who are directly affected by a proposed plan or plan change, and only those people can make a submission.

Local authority

A regional council or territorial authority.


A process to resolve disputes.

National environmental standard (NES)

Regulations that prescribe technical and non-technical standards, methods or other requirements for land use and subdivision, use of the coastal marine area, and beds of lakes and rivers, water take and use, discharges, or noise. Each regional, city or district council must enforce the same standard. In some circumstances where specified in the NES, councils can impose stricter or more lenient standards.

National planning standards

Are issued by the Minister for the Environment (or the Minister of Conservation for coastal marine area matters) to standardise elements of RMA plans and policy statements.

National policy statement (NPS)

Enable Government to prescribe objectives and policies for matters of national significance which are relevant to achieving the sustainable management purpose of the RMA. A NPS may also give particular direction to local authorities as to how they need to give effect to the policies and objectives of the NPS.

Private plan change

When a person, group, or organisation requests a change to any provision in a regional or district plan.

Publicly notified proposal

Means that any person can make a submission before the closure date.

Regional council

Primarily manages resources like the air, water, soils, and the coastal marine area.

Regional plan

Can be prepared by regional councils, to help them manage the resources they are responsible for.

Regional policy statement

Must be prepared by all regional councils. They provide an overview of the resource management issues of the region and policies to achieve integrated management of resources.

Regional coastal plan

Plans prepared by regional councils and unitary authorities for the coastal marine area of a region. Their purpose is to help these councils sustainably manage their coastal environment.

Resource consent

Permission from the local council for an activity that might affect the environment, and that isn’t allowed ‘as of right’ under the district or regional plan.

Section 32 evaluation report

Requires new proposed plans, policy statements, plan changes, or variations to be examined for their appropriateness in achieving the purpose of the RMA, and the policies and methods of those proposals to be examined for their efficiency, effectiveness, and risk.

Standard plan-making process

The regular process for a council to develop a plan or plan change, involving notifying people, receiving submissions, and holding hearings. Not available for proposals related to freshwater.

Streamlined planning process

An alternative option to the standard planning process for a council to prepare an RMA plan or plan change. The proposed RMA plan or plan change must meet certain criteria, and must be directed by the Minister for the Environment (or the Minister of Conservation in the case of a regional coastal plan).


Comments, opinions, concerns, support, or opposition about a proposed development, a designation, or a proposed policy statement or plan.

Tangata whenua

In relation to a particular area, means the iwi, or hapū, that holds mana whenua over that area.

Territorial authority

City or district councils.

Unitary authority

Carry out the roles of both regional and district councils.

Working day

Any day except for a weekend day, Waitangi Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Anzac Day, the Sovereign’s birthday, and Labour Day, and those days between (and including) 20 December and 10 January. Note: If Waitangi Day or Anzac Day falls on a weekend day, the following Monday is excluded.

See more on...