A new resource management system for Aotearoa New Zealand

New laws are being phased in that aim to help Aotearoa New Zealand protect and manage the environment and its resources.

The Spatial Planning Act (SPA) and the Natural and Built Environment Act (NBA) began coming into effect on 24 August 2023. They will gradually phase in over about a 10-year period.

Some changes apply immediately. However, most will come into effect later on, and at different times in different regions. Many parts of the Resource Management Act 1991 (the RMA) will remain in place until then.

Please note that the aim of this page is to provide general audiences with high level information and examples. This means we have used plain language, which at times may be different from wording used in the legislation.

Key features of the new resource management system

The resource management system shapes where and how we build roads, housing and other essential infrastructure. It also influences the state of Aotearoa New Zealand’s air, water, land and native plants and animals.

The main aim of the new system is to uphold Te Oranga o te Taiao. This is a concept that draws on te ao Māori. It’s about the health of the natural environment, its importance to people’s lives, and how everything is connected.

The new system also aims to enable development and allow use of resources that help people’s wellbeing, both now and in the future. However, that must be done in ways that protect the natural environment.

Here are examples of key aspects of the new system.


Examples of planning features to protect the environment and enable development include:

  • Each region will develop a Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS), and a Natural and Built Environment plan (NBE plan).
    • RSS will be high-level, long-term (30+ years) strategies that set out a region’s development and environmental goals. They’ll bring together planning for transport, building and infrastructure, and environmental protection and restoration. This fills a gap in the current resource management system, which doesn’t require this type of long-term strategic planning.
    • NBE plans will replace regional policy statements and district and regional plans. They’ll set out the rules for land use and environmental protection, and show which activities are permitted and which will need a consent. 
  • Nationally, over 100 regional policy statements and regional and district plans will be consolidated into 16 NBE plans. This should help make the resource management system more efficient by providing more consistency across a region.

Regional planning committees will be responsible for developing RSS and NBE plans, in consultation with communities. 

Committee members will be appointed by councils, and by iwi, hapū and Māori. There will also be a member who is appointed by central government. They’ll join the committee for developing the regional spatial strategy. 


Examples of key features related to consents include:

  • It’s expected there’ll be less need for resource consents because relatively straightforward activities will be allowed without one (although you may still need to meet certain conditions).
  • When resource consents are required, there should be more certainty around what needs to be done.
  • NBE plans will set out the requirements for notifying consents and who the affected parties will be.
  • Councils will have stronger powers and tools to monitor and enforce consent conditions. 

Outcomes, limits and targets

Examples of these key features include:

  • The new system will focus on achieving positive outcomes for both the natural and built environments. Examples of outcomes include things such as protecting and restoring estuaries and coastal areas, reducing greenhouse gases, and developing climate-resilient urban areas.
  • The system's outcomes are set out in the NBA, and will be included in the national planning framework and NBE plans. The national planning framework will provide direction about the outcomes, including how to resolve conflicts between outcomes.
  • Environmental limits and targets will be set to help protect human health, and to protect and restore the environment.  Limits aim to stop conditions from getting worse, while targets aim to drive improvement. These will set clear bottom lines and goals for things like water quality. 

National policies and standards

Examples of key features related to national policies and standards for managing the environment and development include:

  • A single National Planning Framework (NPF) will draw together all the current national policies and standards (which are collectively known as national direction).
  • It’s intended that an initial “transitional” version of the NPF will be publicly notified by April 2024, and in place in 2025.
  • Over time, the NPF will be updated to include new content, such as detail on achieving system outcomes and provisions to ensure environmental limits and targets are met.
  • The NPF content must be incorporated into RSS and NBE plans. 

Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Examples of key features related to ongoing efforts to meet te Tiriti obligations and strengthen partnerships include:

  • Organisations and people carrying out responsibilities in the new system must “give effect to” the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
  • Iwi, hapū and Māori will have additional roles and opportunities to be involved in the new system. For example, there will be at least two Māori members on regional planning committees, and tools to assist Māori participation in the resource management system.
  • Te Tiriti o Waitangi settlements, marine and coastal area rights (Takutai Moana and rights under Ngā Rohe Moana o Ngā Hapū o Ngāti Porou Act 2019) and other existing arrangements will be recognised and upheld.
  • An independent national Māori entity will monitor te Tiriti performance in the new system. For example, it will assess how well regional planning committees, local and central government are giving effect to the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Development and infrastructure

Examples of key features to enable development include:

  • Some housing and infrastructure developments can use a fast-track consenting process, based on the process developed during COVID-19.
  • RSS will identify where housing and infrastructure will go, earlier in a region’s planning cycle. This should provide certainty to local and central government and developers and infrastructure providers, and enable them to plan and fund investments. 

Compliance monitoring and enforcement

Examples of key features to deter breaches of environmental rules, prevent harm, and hold offenders to account include:

  • The maximum penalties for not complying with environmental rules have increased to $1 million for individuals and $10 million for companies.
  • Councils will have broader enforcement tools and powers. For example, they’ll be able to recover the costs of investigation and prosecution from offenders; take account of an applicant’s compliance history when considering their consent application; and apply to the Environment Court to suspend or revoke a consent.
  • Consent holders can’t use insurance to pay for fines and other financial penalties.

Changes that start immediately

Some changes in the new law started on 24 August 2023. Examples include:

  • fast-track consenting for certain housing and infrastructure developments
  • a new maximum duration for new freshwater-related consents
  • changes to council enforcement powers and penalties
  • changes to the management of contaminated land
  • changes to aquaculture management
  • changes to who can apply to be a requiring authority.

Read the following brief summaries or see the factsheets in the More information section below.

Fast-track consenting process

A fast-track consenting process is available for certain housing and infrastructure developments. The process is based on the one developed during COVID-19.

Most new freshwater-related consents will have a new time limit on how long they last. The aim is to help ensure freshwater resources aren’t locked in for long periods before regions make decisions in their NBE plans about how to allocate freshwater in their areas.

The new maximum duration will apply to consents for taking, using, damming or diverting freshwater. It will also apply to consents for discharging any contaminant into freshwater, or onto land where it can enter freshwater.

The maximum duration can be no more than five years after allocation methods in regions’ first NBE plans come into effect. For example, if the allocation methods come into effect in April 2029, the latest possible expiry date of a freshwater-related consent would be April 2034.

The new maximum duration will apply to consents applied for on or after 24 August 2023. It will not apply to consents applied for before 24 August 2023.

There are some exemptions to the new maximum duration requirement. For example, public water supplies, certain nationally significant infrastructure, and all existing hydro-electricity generation schemes can receive consents for longer periods.

Wider compliance powers and tools

Examples of immediate changes to the way councils, the EPA and the Environment Court enforce the laws include:

  • fines for non-compliance with consent conditions increase:
    • from $300,000 to $1 million for individuals
    • from $600,000 to $10 million for companies
  • councils can take a person’s compliance history into account when considering their applications for resource consents
  • councils can claim monitoring, investigation, and prosecution costs from the person responsible for the non-compliance
  • councils can apply to the Environment Court to suspend or revoke a consent if they identify significant, ongoing, or repeated non-compliance with the consent conditions.

Changes to how contaminated land is managed

Examples of changes that take effect immediately include:

  • Regional councils must identify all land in their region that is or has been used for a hazardous activity or industry in the Ministry’s Hazardous activities and industries list (HAIL). They must keep the information on a publicly available register, and keep it up to date.
  • People who cause or allow land to be contaminated can be held accountable.
  • The EPA and local authorities can recover costs from the polluter for taking action.

Changes to how aquaculture is managed

Examples of aquaculture-related changes include:

  • Regional councils must update information about aquaculture settlement areas in their regional coastal plans, including draft plans. They must ensure the maps in their plans clearly identify the location of aquaculture settlement areas that have resulted from the Māori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act 2004. They must update their plans as soon as possible, without using the standard plan changes process.
  • Updates to the Minister of Aquaculture’s powers to suspend consent applications, make regulations, and allocate aquaculture space.

Changes to who can apply to be a requiring authority

The NBA expands the type of network utility operators who can apply to become a requiring authority and introduces a new category of ‘other applicants’.

A gradual move to the new system

It’s anticipated it will be about 10 years until the new system is fully in place.

At the national level, the NPF – which will bring together current national policies and standards (known as national direction) and add extra content – will be rolled out over the coming years.

At the regional level, regional planning committees will develop RSS, then their NBE plans.

Each region will fully switch to the new system when its NBE plan comes into effect. For example, this is when new resource consent processes will begin, and when the NPF will apply on the ground.

Many parts of the RMA will remain in place until then. For example, current national direction and existing resource consents will still be valid, and councils will continue making planning decisions and issuing consents under the RMA.

Once the new system is fully in place, existing consents that have not expired will continue to be valid.

Overview – Transitioning to the Natural and Built Environment Act from the Resource Management Act 

W 8186 MFE Figure 10 v6
Timeline to move to the new system.

Support for successful implementation

The government has work underway to support implementation of the new resource management system. This includes maintaining the RMA until it no longer applies. Examples of these efforts include:

  • Some regions will be ready to implement the new system earlier than others. The government will support and work closely with these first regions to establish their regional planning committees and develop their RSS and NBE plans. This will help demonstrate the workability of the new system, provide lessons for the regions that follow, and inform what support and system improvements may be needed.
  • Exploring how the government can support subsequent regions to prepare their transition to the new system.
  • Identifying options to support good practice, workforce capacity and training
  • Investigating potential digital technology and data services to help ensure the new system is efficient and effective.
  • Continuing to work with advisory groups from iwi and hapū and from local government to ensure that implementation goes smoothly, and that we provide the right support at the right time. 

Another key feature is the Spatial Planning Board, which is responsible for overseeing the transition to and implementation of the Spatial Planning Act.

Its members are the chief executives from the Ministries for the Environment, Housing and Urban Development, Transport and the Departments of Internal Affairs and Conservation.

The board will also coordinate central government’s involvement in each region’s RSS.

More information

For a thorough outline of the new system, its key components, and how it will work, see:

Factsheets about changes that start immediately

Factsheets on additional topics are available in the publications section of our website.

Over time, we’ll add more information to this website, and we’ll be working directly with councils, iwi and hapū, and others involved in resource management.

You can also subscribe to our Resource management reform newsletter for updates.

Please contact rm.reform@mfe.govt.nz with any questions or suggestions.