National direction under the Resource Management Act

National direction supports local decision-making under the Resource Management Act 1991. It is provided using national policy statements, national environmental standards, national planning standards and section 360 regulations.


Reasons for national direction

  • The issue is of national importance and greater direction should be provided to local authorities at a national level to give certainty.
  • The issue involves significant national benefits or costs.
  • The costs of local variation outweigh the benefits.
  • It is necessary to give effect to other Government policy or regulation (such as the New Zealand Energy Strategy).
  • The issue relates to Government obligations including the Treaty of Waitangi and international obligations.

National direction instruments by status - (ie, in effect, under development, being scoped or being amended)

National direction instruments under the RMA

There is a range of instruments under the RMA that can be used to develop a nationally consistent approach to resource management issues. They include the following.

National policy statements

National policy statements (NPSs) are instruments issued under section 52(2) of the Resource Management Act 1991.

NPSs 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.

The only mandatory NPS is the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement, which is prepared by the Minister of Conservation. Other NPSs are optional and are authorised by the Minister for the Environment.

See national policy statements

National environmental standards

These are regulations issued under section 43 of the Resource Management Act 1991 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
  • 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.

Find national environmental standards in the regulations search

National planning standards

The purpose of the national planning standards (planning standards) is to improve consistency in plan and policy statement structure, format and content.

The planning standards were introduced as part of the 2017 amendments to the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA). Their development is enabled by sections 58B–58J of the RMA.

They support implementation of other national direction such as national policy statements and help people to comply with the procedural principles of the RMA.

They are issued by the Minister for the Environment. To the extent that a matter relates to the coastal marine area, the Minister of Conservation approves a planning standard.

See national planning standards

Regulations under section 360

Regulations made under section 360 of the RMA generally deal with matters of:

  • detail or implementation
  • of a technical nature
  • likely to require frequent alterations or updating.

Find regulations made under section 360 of the RMA in the regulations search