Compliance, monitoring and enforcement by local authorities

Information on the compliance, monitoring and enforcement responsibilities of local authorities under the RMA. Best practice guidelines to assist councils with these responsibilities.

Local authorities' compliance, monitoring and enforcement responsibilities

Under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA), local authorities (councils) are responsible for monitoring to ensure activities meet requirements under the RMA, plan rules and resource consents.

The RMA does not prescribe how councils should carry out this function - councils have discretion to determine how to achieve compliance in their respective areas. 

Councils use compliance promotion (such as education, on-site directions and awareness-raising) as the preferred method for encouraging compliance. When necessary, councils use formal enforcement action to discourage and penalise non-compliance and direct remediation of the damage.

Improving knowledge about compliance, monitoring and enforcement

In November 2016, the Ministry released a report on compliance, monitoring and enforcement (CME) by councils under the RMA. The report built on data collected as part of the National Monitoring System and the RMA Survey of Local Authorities.

The purpose of the report was to:

  • inform the Ministry's work in assessing the effectiveness of policy behind CME
  • inform councils’ CME practice - by providing examples of other councils’ activities and outlining the strengths and weaknesses of certain approaches
  • inform the content of the data request set to all councils annually through the National Monitoring System
  • enable the public to better understand how councils carry out CME.

See the report: Compliance, monitoring and enforcement by local authorities under the Resource Management Act 1991

Best practice guidelines

Councils and stakeholders interviewed for the 2016 report on CME (see above) emphasised the need for national-level guidance to support improvements in CME.

After the release of the report, we began work with councils and other stakeholders to develop national-level guidance on CME. These guidelines have now been finalised.

Read the guidelines

The guidelines will assist councils with their CME responsibilities.

They cover all CME activities including how to:

  • strategically approach compliance
  • carry out monitoring and investigations
  • take enforcement actions.

The guidelines include examples of effective council practices, and standard tools and templates for CME staff to use.

The primary audience for the guidelines is council CME staff, executive staff and elected representatives. The guidelines are also intended to help the public, iwi and Māori groups, and any other interested parties understand how CME is carried out.

Links to further resources and reports

Quality Planning website – this website developed by the Ministry and partners provides information and guidance on compliance, monitoring and enforcement.

Basic Investigative Skills for Local Government – the purpose of this document, drafted by Waikato Regional Council, is to provide council enforcement officers with generic investigative skills, including skills for investigations under the RMA.

Last Line of Defence: compliance, monitoring and enforcement of New Zealand’s environmental law - this report by the Environmental Defence Society outlines the importance of CME under a range of environmental laws, gives an overview of current practice, and highlights opportunities for innovations and improvements. Part-funded by the Ministry, the report builds on the findings in our report Compliance, monitoring and enforcement by local authorities under the Resource Management Act 1991.