Pathway to reform

The main law governing the use of natural resources in Aotearoa New Zealand, the Resource Management Act (RMA), was introduced in 1991.

Nearly 30 years later, many people agreed the RMA wasn’t achieving what it set out to do, didn’t adequately protect our environment and didn’t enable development that a growing population needed.

In 2019 the Government appointed an expert panel led by Hon. Tony Randerson KC (the Randerson panel) to review the RMA and consider whether it was achieving what it set out to do. The Randerson panel published its comprehensive review in July 2020.

In February 2021, the Government announced it would repeal the RMA and enact new legislation based on the recommendations of the Randerson panel.

The three proposed Acts were: 

  • The Natural and Built Environment Act (NBA), as the main replacement for the RMA, to protect and restore the environment while enabling development
  • The Spatial Planning Act (SPA), to support the development of long-term regional spatial strategies (RSS) to help coordinate and integrate decisions made under relevant legislation
  • The Climate Adaptation Act (CAA), to address complex issues associated with managed retreat. 

The Natural and Built Environment and the Spatial Planning Bills were introduced to Parliament on 15 November 2022. The Climate Adaptation Bill will be introduced to Parliament at a later date.  

Read the RM Reform Cabinet paper  

Randerson panel review and recommendations

The Randerson panel’s review built on the work of many organisations who had proposed ways to improve the resource management system. These included Local Government New Zealand, the Productivity Commission, the Environmental Defence Society, the Property Council, Northern EMA, Infrastructure New Zealand, and the Waitangi Tribunal. 

During 2019 and 2020, the Randerson panel consulted on issues and options for reform. It published its comprehensive review of the resource management system in July 2020.  

Main findings

Our natural environment is under pressure.

The way we use land, water and other natural resources has proved unsustainable. Our waterways are in major decline due to poor management, overuse, and pollution. This affects the resilience of our ecosystems - 4,000 native species of plants and animals are now threatened.

Urban areas are struggling to keep pace with population growth.

Over the decade to 2020, our population grew by about 650,000. This growth is expected to continue, and we must ensure urban development can keep up with demand.

There is an urgent need to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to climate change.

The seriousness of this threat is evident in rising sea levels and increasing extreme weather events.

Māori must be enabled and supported to play an effective role in the system

Consistent with the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Summary of recommendations

The Randerson panel recommended the RMA be repealed and new legislation enacted. It recommended that any future system should:

  • shift its focus from minimising the negative effects of resource use and development to achieving positive outcomes for the natural and built environments
  • make greater use of more consistent national direction by central government
  • have a more streamlined process for council plan-making and a more efficient resource consent process
  • give effect to the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and provide a stronger role for mana whenua in decision making. 

Panel members

Hon Tony Randerson KC - Chair 
Rachel Brooking 
Dean Kimpton 
Amelia Linzey 
Raewyn Peart MNZM 
Kevin Prime MBE ONZM 

Key documents

Terms of reference for the Resource Management Review Panel [PDF, 806 KB]. 

Extracts from Waitangi Tribunal commentary, findings and recommendations on the Resource Management Act 1991 (provided to inform the panel’s considerations)

Preliminary outline of the issues and options [PDF, 75 KB], September 2019

Final Issues and options paper, November 2019. 

Full report New Directions for Resource Management in New Zealand, July 2020. 

Development of the new legislation

In January 2021 a Ministerial Oversight Group received delegated authority to make the policy decisions needed to progress the legislation.

The Minister of Finance chaired the group, with the Minister for the Environment as Deputy Chair. Members included the Ministers of Māori Crown Relations - Te Arawhiti, Housing, Local Government, Building and Construction, Agriculture, Māori Development, Transport, Conservation, and Climate Change, as well as Associate Ministers for the Environment.
This group met every few weeks to review advice on multiple policy papers – essentially 17 cabinet papers which contained over 1,000 policy recommendations along with 45 detailed decisions papers.

NBA exposure draft

In June 2021 the Ministry for the Environment released an exposure draft of the NBA Bill, outlining key aspects of the legislation.

This gave the public the opportunity to provide feedback on the main aspects of the proposed legislation, helping to make sure the Bill was robust and reflected the views of people across Aotearoa New Zealand.

It covered the purpose of the proposed NBA, Te Tiriti o Waitangi clause and related provisions, the National Planning Framework, and Natural and Built Environment plans.

The select committee considered more than three thousand submissions from hapū, iwi and Māori, local government, key stakeholders, environmental groups, and the public, and over 300 oral submissions across five weeks. 

The select committee released a report with its recommendations on 1 November 2021.

It noted the environmental outcomes sought by the NBA were comprehensive, applying across the natural environment, cultural values, climate change, natural hazards, and urban and rural areas. The report also provided ideas for making the resource management system more efficient and cost effective. The Government responded to this report on 17 February 2022.

Exposure draft of the Natural and Built Environments Bill and explanatory material 

Summary of initial impact analysis 

Interim regulatory impact statement on reforming the resource management system 

Select committee report from the exposure draft inquiry [Parliament]

First reading and select committee

The submissions and select committee recommendations informed the final shape of the Natural and Built Environment Bill, which was introduced to Parliament on 15 November 2022 along with the Spatial Planning Bill.

Around three thousand submissions were received on the Bills, and the Environment Select Committee made its report back and recommendations on 27 June 2023.The recommendations of the select committee included:

  • strengthening the NBE Bill to give more effect to local democracy through statements of community expectation
  • improving planning and consenting provisions such as notification, designations and fast-track consenting
  • fast-track consenting continuing to apply permanently for specified infrastructure and large housing developments
  • all hydro schemes with generating capacity of more than 5MW being able to apply for replacement consents with durations of up to 35 years
  • providing new national direction allowing local authorities to better protect urban trees without overly constraining development and change.

Select committee also made some structural changes to the Natural and Built Environment Bill and made some minor technical amendments to help make it more workable.

Select committee report back on the Natural and Built Environment Bill

Second and third readings

The Natural and Built Environment Bill and Spatial Planning Bill received their second reading on 18 July 2023 and their third reading on 16 August 2023.

Engaging on the RM reforms

Throughout development of the reforms, government engaged with iwi/Māori, local government and sector stakeholders on key components of the future resource management system. This engagement will continue during the implementation of, and transition to, the new system.   

From 1 November 2021 to 3 March 2022, the Ministry for the Environment undertook 61 separate engagements with partners and key stakeholders, resulting in 151 written submissions. We held 11 online information sessions for wider communities.  

Te Pūnaha whakahaere rauemi o anamata: Kaupapa kōrero  

Māori Collectives

Two collectives of five prominent Māori organisations engaged with the government on Māori rights and interests in freshwater and resource management reform. They advised the government on how best to uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi in the new resource management system, and on how Māori can engage and work with the Ministry for the Environment.

The Te Tai Kaha Collective includes:

  • Kāhui Wai Māori
  • New Zealand Māori Council
  • Federation of Māori Authorities 

The Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group and Te Wai Māori Trust Collective includes:

  • Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group
  • Te Wai Māori Trust

The Ministry is also working with post-settlement governance entities (PSGEs) on how their settlement arrangements will be carried over into the future system. A Ministerial Advisory Board of Te Tiriti experts is assisting with this work, providing independent advice on how to ensure the process is robust and fair. 

Local Government Steering Group

A Local Government Steering Group was established to advise the Government on the resource management system reforms.

Local government is a key partner in delivering the resource management system and will continue to play a constructive and positive role in implementing the new system over the coming years.

The national steering group includes 15 local government elected members and senior council executives. It is co-chaired by Hauraki Mayor, Toby Adams, and Ministry for the Environment Deputy Secretary, Janine Smith.

The steering group meets monthly to test policy and help develop plans for implementation and transition to the new system. Beyond this, they also provide advice on the Ministry’s broader engagement with local government.

In addition to our work with the steering group, we take part in local government chief executives’ mayoral forums, meet with Local Government New Zealand stakeholders, and engage with council planning groups. 

Local Government Steering Group Terms of Reference

Local Government Steering Group members

Toby Adams, Mayor of the Hauraki District
Nigel Corry, Chief Executive, Greater Wellington Regional Council
Gareth Green, Chief Executive Officer, New Plymouth District Council
Aileen Lawrie, Chief Executive, Thames Coromandel District Council
Kataraina Belshaw O'Brien, Director Strategic Engagement, Toi Moana Bay of Plenty Regional Council
Stefanie Rixecker, Chief Executive, Environment Canterbury
Mike Theelen, Chief Executive, Queenstown Lakes District Council
Megan Tyler, Chief of Strategy, Auckland Council
Councillor Bridget Bell, Manawatū District Council
Councillor Iaean Cranwell, Environment Canterbury
Dan Gordon, Mayor of Waimakariri District
Councillor Toi Kai Rākau Iti, Bay of Plenty Regional Council
Councillor Rachel Keedwell, Chair, Horizons Regional Council
Tim King, Mayor of Tasman District
Glyn Lewers, Mayor of Queenstown-Lakes District
Paula Southgate, Mayor of Hamilton

Spatial Planning Board

The Spatial Planning Board is an interdepartmental executive board established under the Public Service Act 2020.

The members of the Spatial Planning Board are jointly responsible to the Minister for the Environment. Its members include chief executives from the Ministries for the Environment, Housing and Urban Development, Transport and the Departments of Internal Affairs and Conservation.

The Spatial Planning Board will govern the implementation, stewardship, monitoring and reporting of the Spatial Planning Act. It will coordinate central government involvement in the development of regional spatial strategies and support the development of each strategy’s implementation plans.