The purpose of this glossary is to assist with understanding 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.


Person or group making an appeal.

Award costs

The Judge orders one party to make a payment to another party.

Board of inquiry

A special decision-making body  appointed by the Minister(s) to hear and decide a proposal of national significance.


Meeting to discuss pre hearing matters.

Case law

Law established from the outcome of former cases.


A person appointed by a council to carry out statutory decision-making duties on the council’s behalf, or to serve as an independent adviser to the council in the making of those statutory decisions.

Deemed permitted boundary activity

Activities which infringe certain types of rules in district plans impacting site boundaries but must be approved by a council if there is written approval by the relevant neighbours.


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

Direct referral

A process where, at the request of the applicant, the council decides that the Environment Court will determine applications without the need for a council hearing and decision first.

District plan

Plans 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 or the EPA) can apply for an enforcement order against somebody else. These are issued by the Environment Court rather than the council.

Environment Court

A specialist court where people can appeal decisions made by councils under the RMA 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.

Freshwater planning process

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


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

Heritage protection order

A provision in a district plan to protect the heritage characteristics of a particular place.

Judicial conference

A meeting of the parties before a Judge to discuss issues in a proceeding. Typically used to expedite a proceeding or facilitate settlement.

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.

Local authority

Means a regional council or territorial authority (and a council which acts as both a regional and district council).


A process to resolve disputes.

Minister for the Environment

The Minister responsible for the RMA with a number of statutory functions under the legislation.

Nationally significant proposal

A proposal that has been deemed to be nationally significant for one or more reasons by the Minister for the Environment (or Minister of Conservation). If a proposal is deemed nationally significant it may then be referral to a board of inquiry or the Environment Court for hearing and determination.

Notice of requirement

A proposal for a designation, which may be notified or non-notified.

Operative plan

A proposed plan will only be 'operative' when the plan is made operative under clause 20 of Schedule 1 of the RMA. This means it has gone through the full plan preparation process and any appeals have been resolved.


A person, group or organisation taking part in an appeal, or other legal proceedings.

Pre-hearing conference

An informal meeting to sort out issues before a hearing.


A case being considered by a court.

Publicly notified

Means that the application or planning matter is described on the council’s website and summarised in the newspaper and any person is invited to make a submission on the consent application.

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.

Requiring authority

An authority (such as a Minister of the Crown, a local authority or a network utility operator) with the power to designate a particular piece of land for certain works or projects.

Resource consent

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.

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.

Security for costs

A payment of money to ensure that if a person is unsuccessful in a proceeding, they will be able to pay costs.

Standard plan-making process

The usual process for a council to develop a plan or plan change, involving notifying the public, 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 costal plan).


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

Territorial authority

City or district councils.

Tikanga Māori

Māori customary values and practices.

Water conservation order

A tool for protecting specific waterbodies with outstanding characteristics, by imposing restrictions and prohibitions on the use of the waterbody which regional councils must enforce.

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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