Implementing the first set of National Planning Standards

This page explains key aspects of the implementation process for the first set of National Planning Standards as proposed in the draft set notified in June 2018.

Draft first set of National Planning Standards and supporting documents


All of the National Planning Standards (planning standards) have a five year implementation timeframe with the exception of the baseline electronic functionality in the Electronic Functionality & Accessibility Standard (F-1). This has a one year implementation timeframe. Some local authorities who have recently completed or are well advanced in policy statement or plan reviews will be given an additional two years (seven years in total).

The timeframes across the various planning standards have been aligned to enable (but not require) local authorities to make the necessary amendments to their plans and policy statement at once; with the exception of the baseline electronic functionality outlined above.

Do the planning standards contain mandatory or discretionary directions?

All of the planning standards contain mandatory directions. The only exception to this is the zone framework component (S-ZONES) of the Area Specific Matters Standard (S-ASM) which contains discretionary directions.

Mandatory directions

Local authorities must amend their policy statements and plans to be consistent with the requirements of the planning standards. These changes must be made without going through an RMA Schedule 1 process.

Consequential amendments, required as a result of implementing the mandatory directions of the standards, must also be made without an RMA Schedule 1 process.  Consequential amendments (under RMA section 58I(3)(d)) are additional amendments that are required to remove duplication, or conflict in policy statements/plans. This may involve changing rules and other content, but only to the extent necessary to give full effect to and integrate requirements of the planning standards. Where the proposed changes go beyond consequential amendments an RMA Schedule 1 process must be used.

The amendments required to implement mandatory directions in a planning standard must be publically notified once they have been made to inform the public that this has been completed.

Discretionary directions

Local authorities must choose provisions from a range of options in the planning standard that are appropriate to their city/district/region.

An RMA Schedule 1 process must be used to apply the planning standard to the local context of the plan, but not to decide the provisions within the plan.

For the zone framework the scope of the plan change to implement the planning standard is limited to where each zone is applied and what existing provisions are included within each zone. Any consequential amendments necessary to avoid duplication or inconsistency (as specified in section 58I(4)(d)) must be made without an RMA Schedule 1 process.

For the purposes of the timeframes in the planning standards, the amendments are considered to have been made once the plan change is notified (RMA Schedule 1 clause 5 or clause 46 notification). The plan will need to comply with the planning standard at the end of the RMA Schedule 1 process.

Considering whether to proceed with a plan review or plan change before the planning standards are finalised

Each local authority can decide when, within the required timeframe, they implement the planning standards. When deciding this, they will need to consider their wider work programme, available resources, and the continuing obligations under section 79 (which requires local authorities to review all parts of their policy statements/plans at least every ten years).

We understand that local authorities may still need to proceed with smaller plan changes after the planning standards have been gazetted. In particular, councils will still need to make decisions on accepting or adopting private plan changes under RMA Schedule 1 clause 25 regardless of the planning standards.  These requirements could influence when, within the timeframe, the local authority chooses to implement the planning standards.