This section sets out the overarching drafting principles that apply to all provisions, and then identifies the features of well-crafted (and poorly-drafted) issues, objectives, policies, methods, and ERAs.
The overarching principles that apply to drafting issues, objectives, policies, methods and ERAs are:
- be succinct
- avoid duplication
- use cross referencing
- use plain English
- be transparent
- keep the purpose in mind
- set in the local context where possible.
Succinctness demonstrates clear thinking. Include only the detail required for clarity and completeness.
There is a fine line between losing the relevance of provisions in generality, and having so much detail that the focus is lost. Finding that balance is one measure of a "good plan".
Provisions don't need to be specified at such a length that they need separate volumes.
Keep lists of provisions short. Very long lists distract the reader, reduce the impact of the provisions, and can give the impression that the plan lacks focus and a sense of priority.
Good practice tip - bundling issues
It is often possible to identify a single key issue that has many
sub-issues. The key issue can be identified in a heading, and the
sub-issues "bundled" under that. If necessary, a short narrative
can set out sub-issues and associated issues.
Clearly stated and well-placed issues, objectives, and policies only need to appear once in a plan.
There can be a temptation, particularly when plan rules are structured around defined areas like zones, to develop area-specific issues, objectives and policies. This can result in the duplication of issues that are common across a district or region.
Avoiding this type of duplication can substantially reduce the size of plans, and show policy coherence and integration.
Good practice tip - avoid duplication
Duplication can be minimised by:
- structuring the plan to reflect key issues, rather than management
- creating a separate section for provisions that are generic
to a region or district.
Use cross referencing
Make sure there are clear links between issues, objectives, policies, methods, and ERAs. Each should flow logically from the other, without repetition.
Cross referencing aids clear links between provisions. This enables the reader to follow the logic, and ensures that policies are given the right context.
Use plain English
Plans should be publicly accessible documents. This means they should be written in simple language, for the average person to read and understand without expert assistance.
Avoid jargon wherever possible, along with terms requiring specific definition. Defined words should generally relate to rules, rather than to objectives and policies.
Plans should also be available to the public in electronic and hard format.
Objectives and policies reveal the local authority's "position" on issues. They should inform the reader of what the local authority wants to achieve, and what matters it considers relevant in achieving the objective.
Objectives and policies should not conceal hidden agendas. They need to provide a true and accurate guide about the matters that are important to decision making.
If decision makers regularly have to refer to material outside the plan, the plan is unlikely to be regarded as achieving good practice.
Good practice tip - involving decision makers
Involve the right people when drafting objectives and policies. As
the purpose is (in part) to guide decision-makers, test the draft
provisions with those who will be implementing the plan. Ask them
whether the draft provisions will help them to make consistent, transparent
decisions or recommendations.
Keep the purpose in mind
Always focus on the purpose of the provision you are drafting. Identify what purpose the provision should serve, and whether it will achieve that purpose.
Including provisions that don't serve any purpose simply adds to the bulk and complexity of plans.
Set in the local context where possible
The RMA devolves responsibility for resource management to local authorities. One of the reasons it does so is the benefit of having a specific local context for policy making.
Make the plan as specific as possible about activities, resources, effects, and locations.
General issues, objectives, policies and methods that could apply anywhere in the country tend to undermine the justification for regional and local plan-making.
What is a well-crafted issue statement?
A well-crafted issue statement:
- relates to a matter that needs to be addressed to promote the purpose of the RMA
- identifies an environmental problem that the local authority can address under the RMA
- identifies the cause of the problem (where this is known)
- is limited to matters that will be addressed by the plan (even if only through referring to methods outside the plan)
- is succinct (if necessary, explained in more detail in explanatory text)
- is, wherever possible, specific to the region or the district, rather than expressed as some abstract or hypothetical problem: [Often best achieved in the explanation rather than in the issue statement itself.] domestic heating using wood and fossil fuel produces emissions that have the potential to adversely effect human health and amenity values in Otago's urban areas.
An issue statement should not:
- focus on problems outside the scope of the RMA: the decline in the industrial area as an employment centre
- merely state the topic of discussion: tangata whenua considerations
- define the desired outcome: the protection of steep gullies and stream systems, at-risk headwater areas, and lake and harbour margins
- focus on the policy approach rather than end state desired: the need for a partnership approach to soil conservation
- focus solely on corporate issues: lack of information about ambient air quality
- pre-empt the solution to the problem - issues must be identified before objective and policy setting, not after: the need for a planned programme of soil conservation works that recognises that preventative costs are less than curative costs, and which is affordable by the region.
What is a well-crafted objective?
A well-crafted objective:
- links to a relevant resource management issue(s)
- states the outcome the local authority wishes to see from the resolution of the issue: enhanced water quality
- is specific, wherever possible, to a particular area or resource (if only in explanation): to enhance water quality in the lower reaches of the x river
- is preferably closed and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound): to achieve a level of water quality in the lower reaches of the x River (between place y and place z) suitable for contact recreation by 2010
- is only open when a lack of information or need for flexibility makes a closed objective impossible or unwise.
An objective can be drafted as:
- a pure outcome statement (a description of the end state desired): continued high ambient air quality in those parts of the region where ambient air quality is already high and enhanced ambient air quality in places where it has been degraded
- an active statement (including a verb directed at the local authority): to maintain ambient air quality in parts of the region that have high air quality and enhance ambient air quality in places where it has been degraded.
An active objective always starts with "to achieve", "to ensure", "to maintain" etc. Which approach to use is purely a matter of style. Either is acceptable, provided the objective is well-crafted.
An objective should not:
- seek something that is not an environmental end in itself: to promote diversity and choice for different lifestyles in the residential area
- seek vague or generic outcomes: the maintenance and enhancement where appropriate, of existing surface water quality
- merely repeat the RMA: the preservation of the natural character of rivers and lakes
- seek overtly social or economic outcomes: to encourage and maintain the viability of commercial zones.
What is a well-crafted policy?
A well-crafted policy:
- relates to a stated objective
- can guide a resource consent decision: buildings in the commercial areas should be of similar scale to and in harmony with the existing character of the commercial area
- can lead to an effects-based decision: ensure activities don't generate noise levels inconsistent with the amenity of the locality in which the generated noise can be discerned
- recognises the permission presumption of section 9 and the restrictive presumption of sections 11-15. Section 9 of a district plan provides for activities, unless those activities are restricted elsewhere in the plan. Sections 11-15 of a regional plan restricts activities, unless those activities are provided for elsewhere in the plan.
A policy should not:
- pre-determine the method to be used: to control the establishment of non residential activities in residential areas; to promote voluntary actions to assist in avoiding adverse effects from the discharge of contaminants
- include characteristics of a rule development standard: subdivision of lots below 5 hectares shall be regarded as a prohibited activity
- merely state what other provisions include: to provide for five residential zones.
A policy may, however:
- include specific or general performance standards from which appropriate rules may be derived: residential dwellings should have access to x lumens of light from the northern aspect during winter
- state the circumstances when an activity or effect will be
regarded as acceptable: the effects of the removal of significant
indigenous vegetation area of the district are generally only
- they are an unavoidable consequence of gaining access to
a part of the property and it is necessary that access be
- mitigation measures are undertaken such as re-vegetation
or pest control that adequately compensate for adverse effects
- state the matters relevant to the consideration of the acceptability
of an activity: to have regard to the following matters when
considering the acceptability of a discharge of any agrichemical
- the proximity of dwelling houses, public land, and other
areas where people reside or congregate, in relation to the
- the sensitivity of neighbouring land uses and features
- the effect of the prevailing weather conditions, including
wind speed and direction.
- refer to external documents: development should generally conform to guideline xyc, 2001.
What is a well-crafted method?
A well-crafted method:
- is identified succinctly: specification of conditions for retailing as a permitted activity
- applies to a generic class of activity where appropriate: all policies in relation to issue 3.4 are implemented by rules and associated resource consents
- is clearly grouped with other regulatory or non-regulatory methods.
A method should not repeat the specifics of the rule itself: all non-residential activities in residential areas shall be identified as discretionary activities.
A method may, however, rely on the provisions of the RMA as the primary means of implementation: policy 4.5 will take effect through the provisions of district plans, which must be not inconsistent with this regional plan.
What is a well-crafted ERA?
A well-crafted ERA:
- is linked to, and relevant to monitoring, the plan's effectiveness
- is linked to other provisions, for example, if the policies and objectives focus on controlling land uses to promote energy efficiency, the ERA must specify the expected energy savings over the life of the plan
- is, preferably, measurable: a 10% reduction in vehicle movements from new medium density residential development compared to traditional development patterns
- is honest, and indicates both positive and negative results, for example, a policy favouring land-based agricultural effluent treatment over discharges to water is likely to result in improved surface water quality in agricultural areas, but also a reduction in the quality of shallow groundwater
- provides the overall picture of the combinedeffect of plan provisions.
An ERA should not:
- repeat the objectives
- focus on administrative or process outcomes: integration of land management with management of water quality
- state vague and generalised expectations: the prevention or minimisation of cumulative adverse effects arising from the discharge of contaminants into air.