Research informing the development of the first set of national planning standards

This page has the research reports that informed the Ministry’s initial thinking when developing the first set of national planning standards, as set out in the 2017 discussion papers.


About the research

The Ministry’s research covered a range of plan topics including:

  • plan structure
  • form
  • definitions
  • zones and overlays
  • regional policy statements
  • metrics.

The evidence base is made up of the following internal and external research reports.

Internal reports

Internal research reports Description

National planning standards: Tangata whenua provisions in resource management plans   

(March 2018)

This report sets out our research on tangata whenua provisions in district and regional planning documents and discusses their variation.
Summary of internal research
(August 2015)
This is the summary of preliminary research on a number of key planning issues relevant to the creation of National Planning Standards undertaken by the Ministry during 2013-15.
Structure and format - internal Ministry for the Environment research
(November 2013)
This report identified practice and trends in the structure, format and electronic delivery of RMA plans in New Zealand. 
Regional policy statement structure and format
(September 2015)
This report summarises research on different structure, format and high-level content of Regional Policy Statements (RPS) under the RMA.
Regional plans structure and format
(September 2015)
This report summarises research on the structure, format and the high-level content of regional plans (including regional coastal plans) as background for a potential National Planning Standard on regional planning.

Coastal planning and the national planning template
(May 2016)

This report provides an overview of the types of coastal planning provisions around New Zealand and presents ideas for possible common content in a National Planning Standard.
Effects based plan research: A review of the structure and format of a sample of district and unitary plans
(December 2015)

This report identifies a small group of atypical effects-based district plans and assesses:

  • the reasons why district councils choose to draft ‘effects based’ plans
  • the usability of these plans
  • the outcomes that result from plans being drafted in this manner.
Activity status and notification
(January 2016)
This research focuses on the different approaches used by territorial authorities in applying different activity statuses for resource consents. It also considers the various logic models used by councils to evaluate different land uses.
Unitary plans structure and format
(September 2015)
This research reports on the structure, format and high-level content of unitary plans prepared under the RMA.

External reports

External research reports Description
Compatibility of national direction instruments with NPT
(4Sight, March 2016)
This report examines how national policy statements on energy and electricity have been implemented and how they could be incorporated into the proposed National Planning Standards.
Review of regional policy statements
(Beca Ltd., October 2016)
This report reviews the structure of regional policy statements developed by councils.
Review of structure and format of regional plans, and interaction with district plans
(Beca Ltd., June 2016)
This report examines differences in structure, format, mapping and terminology between regional plans.
Regional rules structure and format
(Beca Ltd., March 2017)
This report assesses the structure and format of regional rules and how they vary around New Zealand.
Efficacy of effects-based plans
(4Sight, May 2016)
This report studies five districts to understand why district councils use ‘effects-based’ plans and the usability and outcomes of such plans.
Regional plan definitions
(Boffa Miskell, September 2015)
This report reviews the suite of terms and associated definitions contained in 11 regional plans.
Interface between regional and district definitions
(Boffa Miskell, December 2015)
This report researches the variation in district and regional plan definitions and identifies core or common terms applicable to district and regional plans.
Urban zones
(4Sight, July 2015)
This report examines urban zone provisions within district plans throughout New Zealand to better understand the most commonly used provisions and the key differences in the core urban zones.
Spatial planning terminology
(Planz Consultants, July 2015)
This report examines the use of spatial planning tools across New Zealand and identifies commonalities and differences.
Zones and associated spatial planning tool framework options
(Boffa Miskell, June 2015)
This report identifies and analyses relevant non-urban zones and develops zoning framework options.
Resource management plan metric research
(GHD, July 2015)
This report assesses metrics (ie, standards and methods of measurement) used in a selection of district and regional plans.
Potential national standardisation of residential activities under the Resource Management Act
(Beca Ltd., for the Treasury, May 2014)
This report provides advice on the potential to standardise rules or exclusions for residential activities that could be included in a national planning standard or national environmental standard.
RMA district plan definitions
(Boffa Miskel, June 2015)
This report examines the variation and complexity of the terms that are defined in district plans under the RMA. It undertakes analysis of definitions to assist with the development of a set of standardised definitions.
An appraisal of the online delivery of land use planning systems and plans
(Datacom, Nov 2013)
This report reviews the electronic delivery of planning and planning systems in five jurisdictions around the world. The primary focus is on the delivery of both the text component and the maps component of plans within these jurisdictions.

Research on RMA plan-user experience

(Colmar Brunton  4Sight Consulting, July 2017)

This report investigates how the structure, format, and presentation of RMA plans impact the ability of lay people to navigate and understand the plan provisions.