The purpose of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) is to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources. The RMA establishes a planning hierarchy, extending from the national through to the regional and district levels. This hierarchy consists of a series of instruments, including environmental standards, policy statements and plans, which govern the management of natural and physical resources. The RMA sets out processes for seeking approvals (such as resource consents, designations and heritage orders) to protect, use and develop natural and physical resources.
Decision making on the management of resources is largely devolved to 74 territorial and 12 regional authorities. Devolved decision making is based on the assumption that local authorities are better placed to make decisions about the use and development of natural resources at the local level.
Since its inception there have been several reviews of the RMA, including a review of its operation, and some improvements have already been made. For example, increased funding of the Environment Court and an improved case management system have reduced the time it takes to dispose of cases. A standard case can now be heard within six months (as opposed to 23 months). The Environment Court has also now halved the backlog of cases that had built up to a peak of 3,000 in 1996.
In May 2004 Cabinet gave the Associate Minister for the Environment the task of leading a review of the RMA, with the goal of making practical improvements to the RMA’s processes and implementation. Although the review was to have a broad scope, Cabinet directed [CAB Min (04) 15/12] that the options and proposals be considered in the context of the following principles:
Last updated: 6 May 2008