Site Use

Considering how a building and site impact on each other, enhancing energy efficiency, comfort and convenience.

Resource Management Act (RMA)

For many years the Resource Management Act (RMA) has provided a framework for regional, city/district and unitary councils to manage the land and environment under their jurisdiction. While the Act still applies at the moment, the intention is to replace it over time with new legislation.

Councils are required to produce Regional or District Plans for the management of air, water, land and sea and define the activities that may or may not be carried out as of right.

Under the Act, activities that are considered to adversely affect the environment, and therefore may not be carried out as of right, require resource consent. There are five different types of resource consent that are issued by different consent authorities:

Type of consent Consenting authority responsible
Land use consent Regional, city or district council
Subdivision consent City or district council
Coastal permit Regional council
Water permit Regional council
Discharge permit Regional council

Repeal of the RMA

The Government is planning to repeal the RMA and replace it with three new laws.

The first of these, the Natural and Built Environment Act, became law in August 2023. This law will provide for land use and environmental regulation and is the primary replacement for the RMA.

Under this new law there will be a mandatory set of national policies and standards to support the natural environmental limits, outcomes and targets specified in the new law. These will be incorporated into combined regional plans prepared by local and central government and mana whenua.

The two other laws are the Spatial Planning Act and the Climate Adaptation Act. The Spatial Planning Act, which became law in August 2023, addresses long-term Regional Spatial Strategies that will provide high level strategic direction for integrated planning in a region.

The proposed Climate Adaptation Act (which has not yet been introduced to Parliament) will deal with managed retreat – moving communities away from areas facing climate change threats such as sea level rise and flooding.

While replacement of the RMA is underway, the law itself remains in effect and is still being amended. For example, from 30 November 2022 councils must “have regard to” the first national climate change adaptation plan and the first emissions reduction plan when they prepare or change a regional policy statement, regional plan or district plan.

National Environmental Standards

Under the RMA, the Minister for the Environment can prepare national environmental standards (NES).

These standards are set so everyone in New Zealand has clear air to breathe, clean water to drink, and clean land to live on. The standards are regulations and every regional, city or district council must give effect to them. Failing to comply with an NES may result in the council taking enforcement action against the person or body responsible (such as a landowner or developer).

Local authorities cannot grant resource consents that would breach the standards and cannot impose stricter requirements through rules or resource consents unless the NES says they may. New standards do not affect existing resource consents or existing use rights.

There are currently five NESs in force as regulations:

  • Air quality
  • Sources of human drinking water
  • Telecommunications facilities
  • Electricity transmission
  • Assessing and managing contaminants in soil to protect human health.

The air quality NES (in relation to wood burners) and the soil contaminants NES (in relation to subdividing or changing land use) may be relevant to resource consents for building projects.


Updated: 21 August 2023