About the National Environmental Standards for Electricity Transmission Activities

This page contains information on the National Environmental Standards for Electricity Transmission Activities. It includes requirements for local councils, guidance material and information about the current review.

Link to the NES

Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Electricity Transmission Activities) Regulations 2009 [New Zealand Legislation website]

What the NES are

The National Environmental Standards for Electricity Transmission Activities (NES) are regulations made under the Resource Management Act 1991.

The NES came into effect on 14 January 2010.

Why they are needed

The purpose of the NES is to:

  • minimise the cost to councils of implementing the National Policy Statement on Electricity Transmission (NPS)
  • ensure planning requirements are nationally consistent and provide adequately for maintenance and upgrading of transmission lines to achieve the intention of the NPS
  • minimise RMA processing costs and delays.

What they do

The NES set out a national framework of permissions and consent requirements for activities on existing electricity transmission lines. Activities include the operation, maintenance and upgrading of existing lines.
They set out which transmission activities are permitted, subject to conditions to control the environmental effects. 

They specify

  • consent requirements for activities which fail to meet the permitted activity conditions 
  • that electricity transmission activities are permitted, subject to terms and conditions to ensure that these activities do not have significant adverse effects on the environment
  • the resource consent requirements for electricity transmission activities that do not meet the terms and conditions for permitted activities.

The NES only apply to existing high voltage electricity transmission lines. They do not apply to the construction of new transmission lines or to substations. The NES do not apply to electricity distribution lines – these are the lines carrying electricity from regional substations to electricity users.

Permitted activities

Activities that are permitted include:

  • operating existing transmission lines
  • maintaining conductors (wires) and adding a limited number of conductors provided limits on electric and magnetic fields are not exceeded  
  • signs on transmission line support structures (within specified size limits)
  • strengthening, upgrading and replacing support structures and foundations.

Activities which need resource consent

For ‘controlled’ activities the council has the discretion to impose conditions on specified matters, but cannot decline the consent (unless insufficient information is provided). Some activities that fail the permitted activity conditions will be controlled.  Examples include placing overhead transmission lines underground, moving poles and towers more than a specified distance from their existing location, and discharges to water that are more than minor.

For ‘restricted discretionary’ activities the council may decline the consent or grant it subject to conditions on specified matters.  Some activities that fail the permitted activity terms and conditions will be restricted discretionary. Examples include moving poles and pylons beyond the distanced specified for a controlled activity, earthworks on potentially contaminated land, and adding circuits.

For ‘discretionary’ activities the council may decline the consent or grant it with or without conditions. Any transmission activities that are not listed elsewhere in the NES would be discretionary.

For ‘non-complying’ activities the council may decline the consent or grant it with or without conditions.  The council may grant resource consent for a non-complying activity only if it is satisfied that the adverse effects on the environment will be no more than minor or the application is for an activity that will not be contrary to the objectives and policies of the relevant plan or proposed plan.

Public notification of resource consent applications

It is the council’s decision whether to publicly notify a resource consent application or not.  If the council does decide to publicly notify a resource consent application, then it will consider submissions in deciding whether to grant consent or not.

Further information on notification decision-making is available on the Quality Planning website.

Rights of access to private land

The RMA cannot confer any rights of access to private land. Existing access provisions (under the Electricity Act or through existing easement agreements) will not be affected in any way by the NES.

About current plan rules 

  • Rules in regional and/or district plans may not be more lenient than a NES (ie, authorise an activity that the NES restricts).  So, any rules in a plan or proposed plan which are more lenient than the NES cease to have effect.
  • The NES do not allow plan rules to be more stringent (ie, to prohibit or restrict an activity that the NES permits or authorises).
  • Councils need to revise their plans as soon as practicable to remove rules that duplicate or conflict with provision(s) in the NES. 
  • Councils do not need to undertake consultation to amend their plans to be consistent with the NES. For more guidance see NES for Electricity Transmission Activities: Inclusion in district and regional plans

Guidance

National Environmental Standards for Electricity Transmission Activities: Introduction

  • For local authorities and Transpower – to assess the resource consent requirements for the maintenance and upgrade of existing transmission lines and determine which activities are permitted.
  • For local authorities – to understand how the NES implements the National Policy Statement on Electricity Transmission (the NPS).
  • For members of the public – to understand the broad direction of the NES and how it relates to the NPS.

NES for Electricity Transmission Activities: Inclusion in District and Regional Plans

This guidance aims to assist local authorities with reviewing and amending district and regional plans, so the NES is fully incorporated in them. Several options are provided and illustrated.

How the NES link to the National Policy Statement on Electricity Transmission

The National Policy Statement on Electricity Transmission (NPS) sets out high level objectives and policies for managing electricity transmission. National environmental standards provide the equivalent of plan rules. 
Councils must give effect to the NPS by 2012.

The aim of the NES is to reduce the number and extent of plan changes required to give effect to the NPS.  The NES will also reduce costs to councils and ensure the parts of the NPS that relate to existing transmission lines are implemented consistently at a national level.

The NES do not apply to the construction of new lines and therefore do not apply to Transpower’s Upper North Island Upgrade Project.

Review of the NPS

The Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment are jointly undertaking an evaluation of the effectiveness of the NES.

For more information see Consultation on the effectiveness of electricity transmission and renewable electricity generation legislative tools. (The period for submissions has now closed.)

Material incorporated by reference

The Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Electricity Transmission Activities) Regulations 2009 incorporate the following material by reference:

  • New Zealand Standard NZS 6803: 1999 Acoustics – Construction noise
  • German Standard DIN 4150–3:1999 Structural Vibration – Effects of Vibration on Structures.

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
Thorndon
Wellington 6011
New Zealand

To make an appointment to inspect the incorporated material, please contact the Ministry for the Environment on:

Email: infocentre@mfe.govt.nz
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
Email: enquiries@standards.co.nz
Website: http://www.standards.co.nz/

You can view the standards on the New Zealand Legislation website or order a copy from government bookshops.

Find out more

If you would like more information about the NES please contact info@mfe.govt.nz.

Reviewed:
06/10/15