The future of the Resource Management Act

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Delivering on its pre-election commitments, the Government repealed (under urgency) the Natural and Built Environment and Spatial Planning Acts in December 2023. A short innings for this legislation, that only received royal assent in August 2023. The NBA and SPA were introduced by the previous government to overhaul the existing Resource Management Act 1991.

For now, it is again, BAU under the RMA, with a second tranche of reform to come. The Government has signalled that replacement legislation will focus on:

  • Prioritising regionally and nationally significant projects, including renewable energy
  • Green lighting new infrastructure and housing
  • Enabling primary industry/ activities
  • Preserving the enjoyment of property rights; and
  • Cutting red tape in relation to the creation and compliance with environmental regulation

All positives for the primary sector.

Despite repeal of the NBA and SPA, there are some hangover provisions, which include:

  • The fast-track consenting regime for specified eligible activities. Although these provisions will soon be superseded, as the Government has announced that it will introduce a new fast-track consenting Bill in early March 2024, as part of its 100-day action plan.
  • Environmental offending which occurred during the lifetime of the NBA is subject to an extended two year period in which a regulatory authority can decide to bring a prosecution. Good news is that fines will be assessed under the NBA and the RMA, so we are unlikely to see a material increase in status quo sentencing outcomes.
  • Freshwater resource consents applied for and granted since 24 August 2023 are subject to a short-term duration consent. Resource consents applied for since 24 August 2023 but not yet decided will be determined in accordance with the 35-year maximum duration provided for in the RMA.
  • The Spatial Planning Board lives on, however, its role and responsibilities remain uncertain. The Spatial Planning Board is an independent executive board responsible for providing advice to ministers on spatial planning.


The Government has signalled change to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 and related freshwater regulations. This comes at a time when councils around the country are significantly advanced in delivering up plan changes to give effect to the current NPS-FM by the end of the year. The NPS-FM calls for a non-negotiable nationwide improvement of degraded water bodies and a requirement to avoid further loss or degradation of natural wetlands and streams. The Repeal Act extends the time limit for plan changes to be notified a further three years – now due 31 December 2027. This buys much needed breathing room, which should deliver a better informed and balanced (between competing water users) planning framework.

A new ministerial position – Minister responsible for RMA reform, currently held by Chris Bishop – has been created, locking in the fire power to deliver on the Government’s promises for further reform. The roadmap to change is not without challenge for the primary sector, and it will be important to participate in plan and policy development, to stake a foothold in the future use and management of New Zealand’s natural resources.

Article written 10 February 2024

This article appears in Angus New Zealand Autumn 2024 edition.

If you have questions or would like further information, please contact the Resource Management Team.

Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose.

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