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 and moving earth, to taking water from a stream. Its 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 RMA encourages us to get involved in deciding what’s best for the environment by telling our local councils what we value about it. This is because you – as locals – are best placed to know your own surroundings, and you should be involved in deciding what we need to protect and how.

Although the RMA is a guide to what’s important in our environment, it generally leaves the decisions about how to manage it in the hands of the local community. However, in matters of national significance (which could affect everybody in the country), central government can direct how environmental resources will be used, through national direction.

The RMA:

  • helps to look after the environment
  • is based in the idea of sustainably managing resources
  • encourages us to get involved in decisions about our environment.

What are resources?

In the context of the RMA, resources include air, land, soil, water, minerals, energy, plants, animals and structures.

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