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.

Abatement notice

A request for compliance with the RMA within a specified time. Only councils and the EPA can issue these notices, which are used to get someone to stop or to start doing something.


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

Board of inquiry

A special board appointed by the Minister(s) to hear and decide a proposal of national significance.

City or district council

The bodies primarily responsible for managing the environmental effects of activities on land.

Consent authority

Regional, district or city councils when they are carrying out resource consent functions.

Controlled activity

Activities outlined in the RMA, plan or regulations as ‘controlled’ that require a resource consent. Resource consents for controlled activities must be granted except in certain circumstances.

Department of Conservation (DOC)

Administers land under the Conservation and National Parks Acts, and under the RMA it has a role in overseeing the management of the coastal environment.

District plan

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

Enforcement order

A way of getting someone to comply with the RMA. It differs from an abatement notice in that anybody (not just the council) can apply for an enforcement order against somebody else. These are issued by the Environment Court rather than the council.



  1. ecosystems, including people and communities
  2. natural and physical resources
  3. amenity values
  4. social, economic and cultural matters that affect the above.

Environment Court

A specialist court where people can appeal decisions made by councils on a policy statement or plan, or on a resource consent application; or where they can apply for an enforcement order, or seek a declaration.

Environmental Protection Authority (EPA)

Receives and processes applications for proposals of national significance under the RMA, and can have a role in RMA compliance and enforcement.

Excessive noise direction

Issued by a council to get people to reduce excessive noise to a reasonable level.

Freshwater planning process

Specific plan-making process councils must use for proposed regional policy statements and regional plans (including plan changes) that 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.

Infringement notice

A written notice, accompanied by a fee, which informs a person that an offence has been committed under the RMA.

Limited notification

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


A process to resolve disputes.

Ministry for the Environment

Advises the Government on policies, laws and other means to improve environmental management in New Zealand.

National direction

Supports local decision-making under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA). This is provided using national policy statements (NPS), national environmental standards (NES) and national planning standards (planning standards).

National environmental standards (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 statements (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.

Non-notified application

A resource consent application that a council decides does not require submissions (see publicly notified and limited notification).

Office of the Ombudsman

Investigates complaints about processes run by central, regional and local government organisations or agencies.

Office of the Controller and Auditor-General

Ensures that government departments and ministries, state-owned enterprises, local councils and other public bodies are doing their jobs properly and according to the laws they work under.

Operative plan

A proposed plan will only be ‘operative’ when the plan has gone through the full plan preparation process.

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment

An independent adviser to the Government on environmental issues. The commissioner investigates emerging environmental issues, and concerns from the public.


A plan defined under the RMA, including regional plans and district plans.

Publicly notified resource consent

Means any person can make a submission on the consent application before the closure date.

Regional council

Primarily manage 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 help set the direction for managing all resources across the region.

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.

Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA)

New Zealand’s main piece of environmental legislation. It provides a framework for managing the effects of activities on the environment.

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.

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

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.

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