Resource Management Act: RMA Link: Processes: Details

The RMAlink project aims to make community participation in all Resource Management Act processes more straightforward and less time-consuming. More effective participation from those with a concern for the environment will contribute towards improving environmental outcomes nationwide.

Processes: Details

Hosted by:

Wellington Community Network
Subject District and Regional Plan /Policy Processes

Text District and Regional Plans

If you are preparing a submission on a district or regional plan, any of the general guides listed in the publications section of this information directory will provide you with background information on the review process.

The First Schedule of the RMA sets the process for plans (and policy statements), including the requirements for consultation before notifying plans, and opportunities for submissions and further submissions.

If you are using the internet to obtain information, the resources on the RMAguide, Forest and Bird, and Quality Planning sites are all very useful. RMAguide has excellent information on the whole plan process - making submissions, attending hearings, resolving issues through negotiation or mediation, and making an appeal (a reference) to the Environment Court.

Writing Your Submission
Forms for making your submission can be obtained from your local council office, or downloaded from the MFE website. Your submission should follow the general layout of Form 5 for a first submission, and Form 6 for a further submission.

The submission should state which parts of the proposed plan you support / oppose, and include your reasons, supported by the best facts and information that you have available. Refer to best environmental practice guidelines if any are available.

For the section I seek the following decision from the consent authority - Ensure that your submission states this as clearly as possible. State what you consider the wording of the rule / method/ policy should be, or whether you consider it should be deleted altogether. Do not be restricted in what you ask for at this stage. If your action progresses as far as the Environment Court, you cannot then ask for anything beyond the original decision sought.

Most plan submissions are analysed using computer software developed especially for this purpose. A submission format that repeats the following items for each issue you are submitting on will find favour with council staff.

  • Number of plan section / rule
  • Your submission, i.e. whether you agree/disagree, and reasons why
  • Clear statement of the decision (relief) that you seek
It is always worth stating that you wish to present your submission at a hearing (i.e. to be heard.) Views and information presented at a hearing can be very influential. You can change your mind later, when you know what other submissions have been received.

Further Submissions
A report will be prepared that summarises all the points raised in submissions. Any person can then make further submissions to support or oppose these points.

A form will be available from your council for making further submissions. Use this, or download Form 6 from the MFE or Quality Planning website.

Your further submission should be lodged with council by the closing date, (do not use email), and you are also required to send a copy to the person whose original submission you are supporting/opposing within 5 days of lodging it with the council.

Suggestions for Research

  1. Read the plan policies and objectives. These are meant to guide your council when it is making decisions. They should reflect the policies in the Regional Policy Statement, and regional coastal policies.

  2. If you think the plan does not place enough importance on issues such as protection of ecosystems, biodiversity, habitats, landscapes, amenity etc, refer to councils obligations to fulfil the requirements of sections 5,6,7 and 8 of the RMA as they relate to these issues. Draw attention to matters of national importance in section 6.

  3. Find out which areas have been identified by ecological surveys as significant natural areas. Does the proposed plan firmly protect these?

  4. Activity Status this has a great deal of influence over whether resource consent applications will be notified or not, and whether consent is granted. A council will have less control over the environmental effects of a permitted or controlled activity or landuse. It will have more control, and more ability to impose consent conditions, if activities are classed as discretionary or non-complying. Check the activity status of activities that have significant environmental impacts, e.g. forestry, clearance of native vegetation, modification of wetlands, earthworks. Do rules offer adequate protection in all zones? For more explanation on how activity status affects environmental outcomes, see the RMAlink page on Notification.

  5. In your plan submission, you will probably be suggesting alternatives for the rules contained in the proposed plan. It is instructive to read other plans that have more effective rules. RMAlinks topic pages refer to these where possible. Try Quality Plannings Plan Status section, where there are links to regional plans on specific issues. A friendly planning professional may be able to direct you to good examples.

    Try to word your proposals so that rules are effects based. (See MFE publication Drafting Issues, Objectives, Policies and Methods in Regional Policy Statements and District Plans).

    If you are concerned that plan rules do not offer reliable protection for the environment, you can ask to see the relevant Section 32 reports, and comment on these. Other submitters, and council, may favour voluntary or non-regulatory methods of environmental protection over firm plan rules. Non-regulatory methods can be effective in achieving results, but may need to be backed up by rules to ensure that outcomes are reliable.

  6. It is important that your submission is supported by good information. This websites topic pages are a starting point, but you may need to ask your council for statistics, research findings, reports and any other relevant information they used when writing the plan. They must respond to your requests for information as required by the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1978.

    Another way of finding information is to network with experts in a particular field. Think about where you might find such experts your regional council, your DOC conservancy office, Fish and Game, NZ Ecological Society, Landcare Research.

    You may also find useful information by networking with other environmental groups. Networking opens up possibilities for groups to work together in subsequent negotiations. A council may look favourably on groups that submit jointly, as it saves them time.

  7. Look for case law examples. There may be relevant Environment Court rulings on plan references that have resulted in good plan rules that protect the environment. RMAlink endeavours to provide examples of some of these, but case law can be superseded as new decisions are made. Research for a particular situation is best carried out by a planning professional.

  8. All plans must contain a statement of procedures that will be used to monitor the efficiency and effectiveness of policies, methods and rules. This is required by the RMA (Section 67(1)(i) for regional plans, Section 75(1)(i) for district plans). Check your plan how will the environmental protection measures be monitored? Guidance notes on monitoring the effectiveness of plans are available on the Quality Planning website, see Monitoring and Reporting One-Stop-Shop.
Where to get help researching and writing a plan submission
  • Network with other groups there may be a lawyer, planning professional, or scientific/technical expert in your community.
  • Seek advice from your nearest environment centre, and advice on legal aspects from your nearest community law centre.
  • Council staff can provide information, but must retain a neutral position. They should not be asked to assist in preparing submissions.
  • Consult a resource management professional if your budget permits.



MFE (1998) Making Submissions on Proposed District and Regional Plans
This is an A4 colour brochure that provides a basic introduction to making submissions on plans.

MFE (2004) Making a Submission on a Proposed Plan, Plan Change, or Variation. ME530
Ministry for the Environment, Wellington.
A guide on how to make good written submissions to your council. One of the 'Everyday Guide to the Resource Management Act' series. Available online at

MFE (2004) Appearing at a Council Plan Change Hearing
Ministry for the Environment, Wellington.
A guide for people who have made a submission and want to speak at a hearing. One of the 'Everyday Guide to the Resource Management Act' series. Available online at

MFE (2000) What are the Options? A Guide to Using Section 32 of the RMA. ME 358
Ministry for the Environment, Wellington
Handbook outlines how to research and write a Section 32 report. Aimed at council staff writing and approving plan provisions. A useful reference for plan submitters who wish to gain an understanding of the various options available to councils for achieving the purpose of the Act. Also useful background if you want to make an informed judgement on Section 32 reports, and comment on these in your submission.

MFE (2003) Drafting Issues, Objectives, Policies and Methods in Regional Policy Statements and District Plans. ME 483
Ministry for the Environment, Wellington.
Ministry guidelines aimed at local government staff preparing plans. Useful for those who are submitting on plans.

Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Inc. (2003) Breaking Down the Barriers a Guide to the Resource Management Act.
Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand, Wellington.
Good background reading on the plan review process. The section on How to make a submission, p26-34, covers the submission- making process (resource consents, plans and policy statements), and hearings. Forms showing required format for different types of submissions are included.

Peart, R. (2004) Community Guide to the Resource Management Act.
Environmental Defence Society, Auckland.
Section 3.4 Regional Plans p20-21
Section 3.5 District Plans p21-22
Section 7 Policy Statement and Plan Submissions p63-72 Suggestions on how to approach reading a proposed plan or policy statement.
Section 9 Useful Skills Suggestions on finding information, and getting expert help. P85-90.

Young, Denise (1993) Having Your Say! ECO Guidelines for community input into regional policy statements, and regional and district plans.
Environment and Conservation Organisations (ECO), Wellington. 40p.
A useful guide to assessing a policy statement or plan. Out of print. Try your library.

Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Inc. (1995) Stopping the Bulldozers Before They Start: The Forest and Bird Guide to Resource Management Plans
Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Inc. Wellington. 91p ISBN 9597851 4 0
This whole publication is about making submissions on plans. Good background information on classification of activities and notification issues. Section on Preparing a Submission, p16-20 outlines the writing of the submission itself. Deals in particular with provisions for landscape protection, wetland and terrestrial habitat protection, riparian management and coastal management. Out of print. Try your library.

MFE (1999) Your Guide to the Resource Management Act(Draft).ME 388
Ministry for the Environment, Wellington. 69p ISBN 0 478 09053
Chapter 4, p46-54 Getting Involved in Resource Management Decisionmaking covers the submission-making process. This publication was updated in July 2004, available online only, no printed copies produced.

Harris, R. (ed) (2004) Handbook of Environmental Law
Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Inc. Wellington.
Chapter 3 B p77-86, covers making submissions on policy statements and plans. Other parts of the book will be useful for guidance on specific resource management issues, that will be dealt with in various parts of the plan.

Web-Based Resources

Resources: Forest and Bird material on the RMA includes How to make a submission, and examples of Forest and Bird submissions on plans, government policy, and legislation.

Resources: Site administered by Environmental Defence Society. Very useful sections on Resource Consent Submissions and Plan Submissions. 'Planning Documents' section has excellent flowcharts that show process clearly. 'Site Tools' section has downloadable forms for making submissions (these are accepted format and content as prescribed in the Resource Management (Forms, Fees, and Procedure) Regulations 2003. Some good examples of submissions.

Site: www.mfe.govt.issues/resource/participation
Resources: MFE web pages on Taking part in Resource Management processes. Resources include several pages outlining a range of processes (consents, plans, heritage orders). RMA forms available as MS Word downloads.

Resources: An information sheet entitled ' Improving Local Policy and Plan Making' is available on the MFE site. This summarises the relevant changes made by the Resource Management Amendment Act 2005 to streamline plans and planmaking.

Resources: See Guidance on the Plan Development Process for useful notes on all stages of plan preparation / review process. The Submissions on a Plan section will give you an idea about what happens to your submission after the hearing authority receives it. Forms for making submissions can be downloaded.