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Glossary of RMA terms

This page provides definitions of Resource Management Act terminology.

This page has not yet been updated to reflect changes as a result of the Resource Legislation Amendment Act 2017.


Abatement notice requires compliance with the RMA within the time specified in the notice. Only councils can issue these to get someone to stop or to start doing something.

Appellant is a person, group or organisation who lodges an appeal with the Environment Court.

Applicant is a person, group or organisation who applied for a resource consent.

Assessment of environmental effects is a report that must be given to the council with your resource consent application. It outlines the effects that the proposed activity might have on the environment.

Certificate of compliance is confirmation that your activity is permitted by the council and does not need a resource consent.

Consent authority refers to any council whose permission is needed to carry out an activity that requires resource consent.

Department of Conservation administers land under the Conservation and National Parks Acts and has a role under the RMA overseeing the management of the coastal environment.

Designations are provisions in a district plan which provide notice to the community of an intention by the council or a requiring authority to use land in the future for a particular work or project.

District plans must be prepared by city or district councils to help them carry out their functions under the RMA.

Enforcement order is another way of getting someone to comply with the RMA. It differs from an abatement notice in that anybody (not just the council) can apply for an enforcement order against somebody else. These are issued by the Environment Court rather than the council.

Environment includes ­

a. ecosystems and their constituent parts, including people and communities, and

b. natural and physical resources, and

c. amenity values, and

d. the social, economic, aesthetic, and cultural conditions which affect the matters stated in paragraphs a to c of this definition or which are affected by those matters.

Environment Court is a specialist Court where people can go to appeal decisions made by councils on either a policy statement or plan, or on a resource consent application, or apply for an enforcement order.

Excessive noise directions are issued by a council to get people to reduce an excessive noise to a reasonable level.

Existing use certificate is useful when an existing activity doesn't meet a current district or regional plan rule, but was lawfully established before the rule came into force.

Further submission provides an opportunity for people to comment on other people's original submissions on a proposed plan, plan change or variation either by supporting or opposing those submissions.

Heritage order is a provision in a district plan from a Heritage Protection Authority to protect the heritage qualities of a particular place or structure.

Heritage protection authority is a body (including the local council) that can give notice that it wishes to have a heritage order included in the district plan. 

Infringement notice is an instant fine that is issued for relatively minor environmental offences.

Land information memorandum is issued by a council and will tell you what information the council has about that piece of land.

Limited notification means that only those persons who are adversely affected by an application are notified of the application by the council and can make a submission on a resource consent application.

Ministry for the Environment provides advice to the Government on policies, laws and other means to improve environmental management in New Zealand.

National environmental standards are tools used to set nationwide standards for the state of a natural resource. For example 14 standards for the prevention of toxic emissions and the protection of air quality were introduced in October 2004.

National policy statement provides policy direction for matters that are considered to be of national significance, for example renewable electricity generation.

Natural and physical resources include land, water, air, soil, minerals, energy, all forms of plants and animals (whether native to New Zealand or introduced), and all structures.

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment is an independent adviser to the Government on environmental issues. The Commissioner investigates emerging environmental issues and concerns from the public.

Party is a person, group or organisation in an appeal or other legal proceedings.

Plan change is the process that councils use to prepare changes to an operative plan.

Private plan change is a plan change initiated by any person to an operative council plan.

Project information memorandum is issued by the city or district council and contains information relating to the location of the building and whether it will need a resource consent or not.

Public notification means a notice published in a newspaper or notice sent to every person the council thinks may be affected by a proposed plan, plan change or variation.

Publicly notified resource consent means that any person can make a submission on the consent application.

Regional councils primarily manage resources like the air, water, soils and the coastal marine area.

Regional plans can be prepared by regional councils if they want to use them to help manage the resources for which they are responsible.

Regional policy statements must be prepared by all regional councils and help set the direction for the management of all resources across the region.

Resource consent is permission from the local council for an activity that has a rule or rules applying to it in a district or regional plan because it might adversely affect the environment.

Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) is New Zealand's main piece of environmental legislation and provides a framework for managing the effects of activities on the environment.

Respondent is the person or group against whose decision or actions a case has been lodged with the Environment Court.

Submission outlines your written comments, opinions, concerns, support, opposition or neutral stance about a proposed development, a notice of requirement for a designation, or a proposed policy statement or plan.

Sustainable management means managing the use, development and protection of natural and physical resources in a way, or at a rate, which enables people and communities to provide for their social, economical and cultural wellbeing and for their health and safety while:

a. sustaining the potential of natural and physical resources (excluding minerals) to meet the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations, and

b. safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil and ecosystems, and

c. avoiding, remedying or mitigating any adverse effects of activities on the environment.

Territorial authorities are city and district councils primarily responsible for managing the effects of activities on land.

Unitary authorities carry out the roles of both regional and district councils.

Variation is a change prepared by a council to a proposed plan.

Working day means any day except for a weekend day, public holiday, and those days between 20 December and 10 January.