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 While the Act still applies at the moment, the Government has indicated that it will be repealed and replaced with a new law by the end of 2022.

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

In early 2021 the Government announced details of the repeal of the RMA and its replacement with three new laws.

The first of these, the Natural and Built Environments Act, will provide for land use and environmental regulation. This is the primary replacement for the RMA and will be the priority for Government attention. An ‘exposure draft’ showing key aspects of the proposed new law has been released. An exposure draft is a document put out for feedback before a bill is introduced to Parliament, which in this case is expected in early 2022.

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 that will be introduced are the Strategic Planning Act, which will address long-term regional spatial strategies, and the Climate Adaptation Act, which will address issues around managed retreat and funding and financing adaptation.

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: 12 July 2021