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Introduction to the RMA

This page provides an introduction to the Resource Management Act.

About the RMA

The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) is New Zealand’s primary piece of legislation that sets out how we should manage our environment. It is based on the principle of sustainable management which involves considering effects our activities have on the environment now and in the future when making resource management decisions.

As well as managing air, soil, fresh water and coastal marine areas, the RMA regulates land use and the provision of infrastructure which are integral components of New Zealand’s planning system.

The RMA was created in October 1991 to achieve a more coordinated, streamlined, and comprehensive approach to environmental management. It replaced or amended more than 50 existing laws relating to town planning and resource management.

The RMA has brought a number of benefits. Importantly, New Zealand’s natural and physical resources are now managed in a sustainable framework, with a raft of environmental bottom-lines.

And while the RMA provides an overarching guide on what’s best for our environment, with national direction on significant issues, it allows communities to make decisions on how their own environment is managed through regional and district resource management plans. Decisions on resource consents are made with consideration to these plans, national direction and the objectives in the RMA. This framework means that most decisions on resource management are made by local government who also have a wider planning role in transport, infrastructure and economic development. Essentially, the RMA also recognises the Treaty of Waitangi in decision making.