Why we need resource management reform

Our current resource management legislation, the Resource Management Act (RMA), was introduced in 1991. More than 30 years later, there’s widespread agreement that it’s not achieving what it set out to do. 

The RMA isn’t adequately protecting our natural environment or enabling development where it is needed. Processes take too long and cost too much, and don’t address the many new challenges facing our environment and our communities, such as the impacts of climate change.

Issues with our current resource management system

  • The environment is not receiving adequate protection. Ecosystems are degraded, our waterways are in major decline and biodiversity is diminishing.
  • At the same time, urban development hasn’t kept up with population growth. Complex and lengthy RMA processes have held up the development of housing and major infrastructure.  
  • The lack of a deliberate, strategic and considered approach to resource allocation has led to inefficient and inequitable allocation of resources such as water.
  • The cumulative environmental effects of multiple consents aren’t addressed.  
  • The interests of hapū, iwi and Māori are not adequately recognised. 
  • The resource management system needs to be better aligned with work to adapt to the impacts of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.   

Over the years, many organisations have proposed ways to improve our 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.   

Expert review and recommendations

In 2019, the Government appointed an expert panel led by Hon. Tony Randerson KC to review the Resource Management Act.  The reforms are based on that review’s recommendations.
During 2019 and 2020, the panel consulted on issues and options for reform. It published its comprehensive review of the resource management system in July 2020.   
This was the most significant, broad ranging and comprehensive review  since the RMA was enacted.   
The Panel set out the significant challenges across the system. These challenges had already been well articulated in previous reviews by government and others.  

Main findings of expert review panel 

  • 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 past decade, our population has grown 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 the rising sea levels and increasing droughts, floods, fires, and extreme weather events we are seeing worldwide.
  • Māori must play an effective role in the system, consistent with te tiriti principles.  

 Summary of recommendations 

The panel’s final report made more than 140 recommendations.
They recommended that the RMA be repealed and new legislation enacted. The panel also 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 and provide a stronger role for mana whenua in decision making. 

Based on these recommendations, the Government announced in February 2021 that it would repeal the RMA and enact new legislation.   

Read the Randerson Panel’s full report New Directions for Resource Management in New Zealand. 

Panel members

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

Key documents

Issues and options 

The panel released its Issues and options paper in November 2019. 

The panel previously released the Preliminary outline of the issues and options [PDF, 75 KB]. 

Papers the panel received 

The panel received a variety of information and advice over the course of its review, from many different sources. The Ministry is making these documents publicly available in stages. 

Working papers 

These documents were prepared for the panel as thought pieces on various aspects of the resource management system. 

Terms of reference 

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

You can also read the Draft terms of reference which were released earlier in the year. 

Ministers’ letters 

The Environment Minister invited other ministers to suggest what the review should cover. Some of their responses are available below.