National Environmental Standards for Telecommunication Facilities

Panel antennae roadside extension

This page provides key information on the National Environmental Standards for Telecommunication Facilities. It includes links to a guide for councils and the telecommunications industry, and a guide for householders.

Link to the NES

What they are

The National Environmental Standards for Telecommunication Facilities (NES) are regulations under the Resource Management Act 1991.

The NES came into effect on 9 October 2008.

Why they are needed

The NES provide for a nationally consistent planning framework for:

  • radio-frequency fields of all telecommunication facilities and low impact
  • telecommunications infrastructure on road reserves.

They were developed to:

  • assist in network and equipment design, and equipment sourcing for roll outs
  • create a reduction in compliance costs and timeframes for service providers
  • reduce the timeframe and costs for the availability of new services to consumers
  • contribute to a reduced workload to councils in processing and determining consent applications
  • set an appropriate balance between local participation in community planning and cost effective national infrastructure investment.

What they do

What the NES address

The NES address:

  • Radiofrequency fields emitted from antennas.
  • The erection of roadside equipment cabinets. These cabinets can contain equipment for telephones (both land-lines and mobiles), cable television and for Internet.
  • The addition of antennas to existing structures (such as light poles on roadsides or verges). The antennas are used for wireless Internet connections and mobile phones (including new technologies that can transmit television, Internet and radio to mobile phones and personal digital assistant hand-held mobile devices (PDAs).
  • Noise levels from roadside cabinets. 

Permitted activities

The following are permitted activities under the NES:

  • an activity (such as a mobile phone transmitter) that emits radio-frequency fields is a permitted activity provided it complies with the existing New Zealand Standard (NZS2772.1:1999 Radio-frequency Fields Part 1: Maximum Exposure Levels 3kHz-300GHz).
  • the installation of telecommunications equipment cabinets along roads or in the road reserve is a permitted activity, subject to specified limitations on their size and location.
  • noise from telecommunications equipment cabinets located alongside roads or in the road reserve is a permitted activity, subject to specified noise limits.
  • the installation of masts and antennas on existing structures alongside roads or in the road reserve is a permitted activity, subject to specified limitations to height and size. 

Activities that do not qualify as permitted activities under the regulations will continue to be managed by local councils through the existing rules in their district plans under the Resource Management Act 1991.

The regulations are substitutes for existing district plan rules that address the same subject material.

Size of masts/antennas

All district and city council plans set thresholds specifying what size masts and antennas can and can't be installed. The NES will ensure that this acceptable size threshold is consistent across the country. 

Establishing a consistent threshold helps the rollout of new technology, as there is no time spent interpreting different local government planning controls and designing equipment of slightly different sizes to comply with different size thresholds.

Radio-frequency fields generated from the masts/antennas

The NES effectively reproduce the existing Standards New Zealand standard for radiofrequency fields. It also draws on existing Ministry of Health and Ministry for the Environment national guidance for radiofrequency fields that is widely accepted and used in New Zealand.

National guidelines for managing the effects of radio frequency transmitters 

The Standards New Zealand standard for radio-frequency fields was based on international guidelines endorsed by the WHO.

For the WHO factsheet see Electromagnetic fields – fact sheets and backgrounds [World Health Organisation website].

The NES will be reviewed if new research comes to light showing any effects to health. The National Radiation Laboratory reviews such research.

The Ministry for the Environment participates in a New Zealand interagency committee monitoring research in this area. The committee meets twice per year and includes representatives from government, public health, consumer interests and industry. The committee is required to inform the Minister of Health and the Minister for the Environment if there is suspicion of health hazards from exposures to radiofrequency fields that comply with current Ministry of Health recommendations. 

Placement of roadside cabinets and antennas

The NES include a limit on the numbers of roadside cabinets allowed in one specific location, as well as a minimum separation distance to other structures to ensure any potential for cluttering is avoided.

The NES apply only to equipment cabinets and antennas located within the road reserve and there is a limit on the number and size of cabinets permitted.

Telecommunications operators are required by law to notify the road owner of their intention to install equipment in, on or under a road.  The road owner may require compliance with specific conditions that include road safety and access.  Roads are owned and administered by road controlling authorities (RCAs). For state highways and motorways the RCA is New Zealand Transport Authority. The RCA for most other roads is the local council.

The NES remove the requirement for telecommunications companies to obtain planning permission (resource consent) for some low-impact structures by the roadside.

However the following applies.

  • The community can still have a say. Where a district plan identifies areas or values the community wishes to protect or manage, telecommunications operators will have to comply with the requirements of the district plan. 
  • Cabinets and antennas in or adjacent to landscape and heritage areas, for example, would not be permitted automatically and would require resource consent to be granted before they were installed.
  • There is also a legal requirement under the Telecommunications Act to comply with any conditions imposed by the road controlling authority for things such as safety and location.
  • Also broader consideration of clutter through increased minimum separation distances between cabinets has been applied.

How the NES compare with provisions in district plans for installation of roadside cabinets

The NES provide for national consistency for what can be installed without first obtaining resource consent and detail where installation is or is not appropriate. 

The Ministry for the Environment commissioned consultants, when the NES was proposed, to analyse the current planning provisions in the district plans of all local authorities in New Zealand to see whether the proposed NES would be more restrictive, consistent with, or less restrictive than district plans.

The results showed that the proposed NES are more restrictive than, or are consistent with, most current district plans for all the areas studied.

Noise from roadside cabinets

The NES sets daytime and night-time limits for noise from roadside cabinets for residential and non-residential areas.

  • The NZS is largely based on the voluntary Standards New Zealand standards for environmental noise: the NZS 6801:1999 – Acoustics – Measurement of Environmental Sound levels and NZS 6802:1991 – Assessment of Environmental Sound. These were commissioned by the Ministry of Health and prepared by a committee of environmental noise experts. 
  • NZS 6802 is for assessing noise. It gives a range of noise levels as a guideline for the reasonable protection of health and amenity for land used for residential purposes. Noise limits for less sensitive areas (business and industrial) are typically less stringent and this is reflected by the standard. 


Users’ guide

The Ministry for the Environment has developed a users’ guide to help councils and the telecommunications industry understand and implement the regulations.

National Environmental Standards for Telecommunication Facilities users' guide

Further information on radio-frequency fields can be found in the National guidelines for managing the effects of radio-frequency transmitters, a joint publication from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry for the Environment.

National guidelines for managing the effects of radio frequency transmitters 

Information for householders

The guide explains the national environmental standards for telecommunication facilities: what they do, why they have been introduced and how they affect you in your daily life. The guide is available below or in hard copy on request.

Environmental standards for telecommunication facilities in your neighbourhood

Material incorporated by reference

Public notice – Access to material incorporated by reference

The Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Telecommunication Facilities) Regulations 2008 incorporate the following material by reference:

New Zealand Standard NZS 2772: Part 1:1999 Radiofrequency Fields Part 1 – Maximum Exposure Levels – 3 kHz to 300 GHz

New Zealand Standard NZS 6609.2: 1990 Radiofrequency Radiation: Part 2: Principles and Methods of Measurement 300 kHz to 100 GHz 

New Zealand Standard NZS 6801: 2008 Acoustics – Measurement of environmental sound

New Zealand Standard NZS 6802: 2008 Acoustics – Environmental noise

This incorporated material can be inspected by appointment free of charge from the Ministry for the Environment’s head office at the following address.

Environment House 
23 Kate Sheppard Place 
Wellington 6011
New Zealand

To make an appointment to inspect the incorporated material, please contact the Ministry for the Environment:
Phone: (04) 439 7537

Photocopying of incorporated material will not be permitted. 

Alternatively the incorporated material above may be purchased from:

Standards New Zealand Limited
Radio New Zealand House
Level 10, 155 The Terrace
Wellington 6011 
Freephone: 0800 782 632
Standards New Zealand website

Copies of the regulations and related documents are available online at National Environmental Standards for Telecommunication Facilities [New Zealand legislation website].

Find out more

To find out more about the NES contact