Section 32, Consideration of Alternatives, Benefits and Costs, of the Resource Management Act imposes a rigour on decision-makers by requiring them to evaluate their objectives, policies and methods.
Section 32 reads:
1) In achieving the purpose of this Act, before a proposed plan, proposed policy statement, change, or variation is publicly notified, a national policy statement or New Zealand coastal policy statement is notified under section 48, or a regulation is made, an evaluation must be carried out by -
(a) The Minister, for a national policy statement or regulations made under section 43; or
(b) The Minister of Conservation, for the New Zealand coastal policy statement; or
(c) The local authority, for a policy statement or a plan (except for plan changes that have been requested and the request accepted under clause 25(2)(b) of Part II of the First Schedule), or
(d) The person who made the request, for plan changes that have been requested and the request accepted under clause 25(2)(b) of Part II of the First Schedule.
2) A further evaluation must also be made by -
(a) A local authority before making a decision under clause 10 or clause 29(4) of the First Schedule; and
(b) The relevant Minister before issuing a national policy statement or New Zealand coastal policy statement.
3) An evaluation must examine -
(a) The extent to which each objective is the most appropriate way to achieve the purpose of this Act; and
(b) The efficiency and effectiveness of policies, rules, or other methods in achieving each objective.
4) For the purposes of this examination, an evaluation must take into account -
(a) The benefits and costs of policies, rules, or other methods; and
(b) The risk of acting or not acting if there is uncertain or insufficient information about the subject matter of the policies, rules or other methods.
5) A person required to carry out an evaluation under subsection (1) must prepare a report summarising the evaluation and giving reasons for being satisfied that -
(a) The objectives are the most appropriate ways to achieve the purpose of this Act; and
(b) The policies, rules, or other methods are the most appropriate in achieving the objectives, having regard to efficiency and effectiveness.
6) The report must be available for public inspection at the same time as the document to which the report relates is publicly notified or the regulation is made
Section 32A – Failure to carry out evaluation
(a) A challenge to an objective, policy, rule or other method on the ground that section 32 has not been complied with may be made only in a submission under the First Schedule or a submission under section 49.
(b) Subsection (1) does not preclude a person who is hearing a submission or an appeal on a proposed plan, proposed policy statement, change, or variation, or a submission on a national policy statement or New Zealand coastal policy statement, from taking into account the matters stated in section 32.