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About the Resource Management Act 1991

Why we have the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) and what it does. Links to the Act and regulations under the Act.

Read the Act

What the Act does

The RMA is New Zealand’s main piece of legislation that sets out how we should manage our environment. The RMA is based on the principle of sustainable management which involves considering effects of activities 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.

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. The RMA also recognises the Treaty of Waitangi in decision making.

Regulations under the Act

There are 16 regulations under the RMA covering a broad range of activities, including:

  • requiring authority approvals
  • heritage protection authority approvals
  • forms, fees and procedure
  • marine pollution
  • metering of water takes
  • national environmental standards for contaminants in soil, drinking water, electricity transmission, air quality, air pollutants, and plantation forestry
  • dissolution of the Waitaki Water Allocation Board.

Find out more

Read the Act and regulations on the New Zealand Legislation website.

Resource Management Act 1991

Resource Management (Discount on Administrative Charges) Regulations 2010

Resource Management (Exemption) Regulations 1996

Resource Management (Exemption) Regulations 2017 

Resource Management (Forms, Fees, and Procedure for Auckland Combined Plan) Regulations 2013

Resource Management (Forms, Fees, and Procedure) Regulations 2003

Resource Management (Infringement Offences) Regulations 1999

Resource Management (Marine Pollution) Regulations 1998

Resource Management (Measurement and Reporting of Water Takes) Regulations 2010

Resource Management (National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health) Regulations 2011

Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Electricity Transmission Activities) Regulations 2009

Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry) Regulations 2017

Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Sources of Human Drinking Water) Regulations 2007

Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Telecommunication Facilities) Regulations 2016

Resource Management (Network Utility Operations) Regulations 2016 

Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Air Quality) Regulations 2004

Resource Management (Transitional, Fees, Rents, and Royalties) Regulations 1991