Planning and consenting in the new system

The new resource management system will be governed by the Spatial Planning Act (SPA) and the Natural and Built Environment Act (NBA). They’ll work together to improve planning and reduce the need to make decisions on a consent-by-consent basis.

The key planning documents are:

  • Regional spatial strategies (RSS), developed under the SPA
  • Natural and Built Environment plans (NBE plans), developed under the NBA
  • A National Planning Framework (NPF), giving national direction and guidance to regional planning.

Central government will provide the NPF. Regional planning committees (RPC) will develop RSS and NBE plans. Councils will continue to manage and administer consents.

The overarching purpose of the new system is to uphold Te Oranga o te Taiao, a concept drawn from te ao Māori that emphasises the relationship between healthy ecosystems and the health of all life. 

Regional spatial strategies (RSS)

RSS will set out the long-term (30 to 100 years) high-level strategic direction for each region. They’ll include maps and other illustrations to set a vision and objectives for the region and identify significant areas that:

  • need environmental protection, restoration or enhancement
  • have cultural significance and resources that are significant to Māori
  • are at risk of natural hazards and climate change
  • are appropriate for housing, development, and infrastructure
  • need significant land use change, either for development or for environmental protection and restoration. 

Each RSS will have an implementation plan that sets out the key actions and who will be responsible for its delivery. RSS will guide the development of NBE plans and will be renewed every nine years. 

There is no appeals process for RSS. However, any person or entity can apply for judicial review if they believe what’s in the RSS or the way it was developed didn’t comply with the SPA.  

Natural and Built Environment plans

NBE plans will replace the regional and district plans and policy statements developed under the RMA. They’ll set out the rules for land and resource use and the rules and methods for consenting.

Any person or entity can make a submission on an NBE plan, and there’s more time for lodging submissions than under the RMA. People can also make submissions before the plan is formally notified.

An independent hearing panel will hear submissions on the draft plan and make its recommendations to the RPC. An Environment Court judge will usually be the panel chair. Processes such as pre-hearings can resolve or narrow disputes before the independent hearing panel hears and considers submissions.

Councils will provide three-yearly reports to RPCs on how the NBE plan is progressing, and the plan will be fully reviewed every nine years.

A council, the Minister for the Environment, or a private person or entity can ask for a change to an NBE plan at any time. There are three processes for plan changes: standard, proportionate, and urgent. Standard and proportionate changes must be made within two years, and urgent changes within one year.

Regional planning committees

An RPC in each region will develop the RSS and NBE plan. The RPC will have at least six members: local councils can appoint at least one member each, and at least two members will be appointed by iwi and hapū. A central government representative will join the committee for developing the RSS.

The RPC will be supported by a director and a secretariat with staff drawn from local authorities, hapū, iwi and other Māori groups in the region. The secretariat will provide administrative support and technical expertise, including expertise in local kawa, tikanga and the mātauranga of hapū and iwi in the region.

RPCs will engage widely with communities and iwi and hapū when developing RSS and NBE plans.

For example, they’ll be required to have particular regard to iwi and hapū planning documents, including iwi management plans and coastal marine title plans. ‘Have particular regard to’ means the RPC must give these documents serious consideration in their planning and decision making.

Local authorities can also provide RPCs with input. Local councils can provide statements of community outcomes (which set out the views of their local community), and regional councils can provide statements of regional environmental outcomes (which focus on significant resource management issues). Councils don’t have to provide these statements, but if they do the RPC must give them serious consideration.

National Planning Framework

The NPF will provide national guidance and direction for regional planning. It’ll draw together the policies and standards for national direction under the RMA and will add new content such as outcomes, limits and targets.

The NPF will include direction on:

  • system outcomes, and environmental limits and targets
  • conflict resolution
  • enabling papakāinga on Māori land
  • enabling development capacity and infrastructure ahead of demand 
  • enabling renewable electricity generation and transmission 
  • urban trees and green spaces
  • enabling supply of fresh fruit and vegetables. 

The NPF will be reviewed at least once every nine years and can be reviewed more often if needed.

A transitional NPF will be in place in 2025 to inform the development of the first RSS and NBE plans. RMA national direction will continue to apply in each region until it’s fully implemented the new system. 

See Pre-notification engagement of a draft transitional NPF proposal.

Outcomes, limits and targets

The NPF and NBE plans will include outcomes for the natural and built environment.
Examples of outcomes include things such as protecting and restoring estuaries and coastal areas, reducing greenhouse gases, and developing climate-resilient urban areas.

NBE plans will show how the outcomes will be achieved through its policies, methods, and rules for consents.

An important part of developing an NBE plan will be identifying and resolving any conflicts between different outcomes. The NPF will give guidance on this.

The new system will also set limits and targets to help protect and improve the environment and human health. Limits and targets will be set nationally in the NPF, or locally in NBE plans.

Environmental limits are similar to the ‘national bottom lines’ in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 and aim to avoid any further environmental degradation. Development won’t be allowed to breach environmental limits, and each limit will have a related target to drive improvement.

Human health limits are about ensuring the natural environment is in a state that’s acceptable for human health. Areas above the human health limit mustn’t decline, and areas below the human health limit must improve. 

Limits and targets will be set in six areas: air, indigenous biodiversity, coastal water, estuaries, freshwater, and soil.

An expert panel will review the science and evidence, including mātauranga Māori, that underpins potential limits and targets before they’re finalised.


Resource consents will continue to have an important role in the resource management system. However, they’ll be focused on activities that need more detailed assessments.

NBE plans will set out four categories of activity: permitted, anticipated, discretionary and prohibited. Anticipated and discretionary activities will need a consent. Permitted activities won’t, but may require conditions to be followed. Prohibited activities won’t be allowed.

  • Permitted activities: effects are identified and well understood, can be managed without case-by-case conditions, and will help achieve outcomes and comply with limits.
  • Anticipated activities: effects are generally known, but councils need to assess their extent case-by-case. They’ll help achieve outcomes and comply with limits.
  • Discretionary activities: it’s unclear whether they’ll achieve outcomes, or comply with limits; councils need to assess in more detail.
  • Prohibited activities: effects won’t achieve outcomes and will breach limits.

The NPF and NBE plans will set out the notification and information requirements for consent applications and may also specify who will be affected by the activity. They can also authorise councils to make notification decisions and identify affected parties. Notification decisions can be challenged in the Environment Court, and people can appeal to the Environment Court concerning substantive consent decisions.  

Te Tiriti o Waitangi

People exercising powers, duties or functions under the NBA or SPA will be required to give effect to the principles of te Tiriti. The aim is to provide better recognition and implementation of the principles of te Tiriti. The Ministry for the Environment is developing guidance for councils, iwi and hapū on giving effect to te Tiriti principles. 

Features of the new system include:

  • Outcomes in the NPF will include recognising and providing for the relationship of hapū and iwi and the exercise of their kawa, tikanga, and mātauranga in their ancestral lands, water, sites, wāhi tapu, and other taonga, and recognising statutory acknowledgements in te Tiriti settlements. 
  • A National Māori Entity, independent of government, will monitor how well decisions are giving effect to the principles of te Tiriti locally, regionally, and nationally.  Members will be nominated by iwi and hapū and appointed by the Minister for the Environment.
  • Te Tiriti settlements, the Ngā Rohe Moana o Ngā Hapū o Ngāti Porou Act 2019, and existing RMA agreements between Māori and local government will be upheld. 
  • RPCs will develop agreements with iwi and hapū for how they’ll engage on the development of RSS and NBE plans.
  • Councils will develop policies that set out how they’ll provide for the participation of hapū, iwi and other Māori groups in resource management decisions.
  • Councils and RPCs will be required to investigate the use of tools such as Mana Whakahono ā Rohe, joint management agreements and transfers of power to support their partnerships with iwi and hapū. 
  • Designations, potential infrastructure, and infrastructure corridors will include protections for identified Māori land.