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Introduction

This guidance is for practitioners involved with protecting trees in urban environments. It explains how sections 76(4A)–76(4D) of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) should be applied and highlights some key considerations when using district plan rules to protect trees in urban allotments.

Introduction 

The Government recognises both the value of trees in urban environments (eg, providing slope stability, biodiversity, amenity values, privacy, and shelter), as well as New Zealanders’ interest in seeing significant trees and groups of trees protected. A range of voluntary and regulatory methods exist to protect trees in urban areas. Voluntary methods include education and encouragement. Regulatory methods include district rules in RMA plans, along with other methods, such as resource consent conditions and consent notices.

The changes to the RMA resulting from the Resource Management Amendment Act 2013 (RMAA13) are not designed to stop councils protecting trees in urban environments. However, the reforms reflect the Government’s desire for a change in approach and it is therefore important that councils are clear about which trees are worthy of protection, and that landowners are clear about which trees on which allotments are protected under a district plan.

The scope of this guidance is limited to the tree scheduling requirements of sections 76(4A)–76(4D) of the RMA. Scheduling involves describing and specifically identifying individual trees or groups of trees in the district plan. While scheduling individual trees is common practice amongst councils, few have scheduled groups of trees. Therefore, this guidance focuses on the statutory requirements for scheduling ‘groups of trees’.

Other regulatory and non-regulatory methods can be used to protect vegetation, including groups of trees. These are discussed in detail in a separate guidance note about indigenous biodiversity on the Quality Planning website. Those methods include: