Resource Management Act: RMA Link: Topics: 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.

Topics: Details

Hosted by:

Wellington Community Network
Subject Landscape

Text Landscape Protection

The RMA provides for sustainable management of landscapes in Section 6, where it lists among Matters of National Importance;

  • 6(a) The preservation of the natural character of the coastal environment (including the coastal marine area) wetlands, and lakes and rivers and their margins, and the protection of them from inappropriate subdivision, use and development
    (b) The protection of outstanding natural features and landscapes from inappropriate subdivision, use, and development.
This duty to recognise and provide for landscape protection applies to both regional and local authorities.

There is no nationally accepted methodology for identifying which are outstanding natural features and landscapes (ie for assessing and ranking natural character values), which could be used as a basis for setting management priorities. This is particularly so with the human / cultural / visual aspects of the landscape. Hence a range of approaches are used by authorities throughout New Zealand.

The Land Environments of New Zealand project, carried out by Landcare Research, has produced a classification system for the physical and ecosystems components of New Zealands landscapes (i.e. without cultural / visual / human aspects). This involved nationwide mapping of a range of biophysical attributes such as rainfall, slope, soils, vegetation cover using GIS (geographic information systems) technology.

It provides a valuable tool for environmental managers at local and regional level. It provides base information for use in a range of resource management areas, including landscape, biodiversity, biosecurity, conservation and productive land uses such as forestry that require problem-solving at the whole catchment scale, i.e. integrated management.

Landscape Planning Process
Providing for landscape protection and management in district plans involves the following process:

  1. Landscape assessment background studies that encompass visual character, natural features, habitats, ecosystems, heritage, established land uses, cultural values, and any other factors that have formed the landscape that currently exists. GIS technology is widely used for mapping in landscape studies. Research techniques that involve the community (surveys, focus groups) are used to identify the values they place on the landscape and natural resources. Which landscapes are considered most important by the community?

  2. Identification of any threats to existing visual or ecological values, and pressures causing degradation or change

  3. Develop policy options in consultation with the community what does the community consider inappropriate subdivision, use and development? What provisions does the community consider are appropriate to include in the plan? Will those rules/provisons achieve the desired outcomes, and the sustainable management purpose of the RMA?
Management Tools
Both regulatory, and non-regulatory methods can be used for landscape management in district plans.
Regulatory e.g. define outstandingand significantlandscape zones, set appropriate limits on lot sizes for rural subdivision, protection for listed natural areas, controls on vegetation clearance and land disturbance, urban growth limits.
Non-regulatory e.g. promote voluntary protection using QE11 Trust covenants, reserve acquisition, support for ecological restoration projects and landcare groups, incentives for riparian planting.

The Forest and Bird publication Stopping the Bulldozers Before They Start (p30-37) provides an excellent introduction to landscape provisions in district plans. In addition, the Quality Planning website lists a number of plans that use both regulatory and non-regulatory measures for landscape management.

If you are assessing a district plan, check whether your local authority has carried out a comprehensive landscape assessment study, as a basis for its plan review.



Leathwick, J. Wilson, G. et al (2003) Land Environments of New Zealand: Nga Taiao o Aotearoa.
Ministry for the Environment, Wellington. 184p ISBN 1-869-53522-7
Book describes current approaches to land management, the climate landform and ecological factors studied, and the resulting classification of land environments. It outlines how it can be used as a management and decisionmaking tool.

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (1998) Biophysical and Ecological Impacts of Rural Subdivision. MAF Policy Technical Paper 98/5
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Wellington. ISBN 0-478-07489-1

MFE (2000) The Impact of Rural Subdivision and Development on Landscape Values ME 354.
Ministry for the Environment, Wellington. ISBN 0 478 09094 3
Discusses technical issues associated with landscape assessment, and identifies key landscape issues that need to be addressed when developing district plans. Useful for those involved with resource consent applications where there are landscape issues. Contains a toolbox of planning techniques, both regulatory and non-regulatory.

Peart, R. (2004) The Community Guide to the Resource Management Act 1991
Environmental Defence Society (Inc.) Auckland. 150p
Section 10.1 p91-95 examines landscape protection as a key resource management issue. Includes discussion of key RMA cases.

PCE (2001) Managing Change in Paradise: Sustainable Development in Peri-urban Areas.
Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Wellington. 127p. ISBN 1 87724 00 3
Looks at pressures of urban development on surrounding areas with significant landscape, natural heritage and cultural heritage values. Case studies of several areas in New Zealand where tensions are evident between the communitys desire to protect, and market pressures to develop. Outlines possible measures for managing cumulative effects and promoting sustainable development.

PCE (2003) Superb or Suburb?: International Case Studies in Management of Icon Landscapes.
Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Wellington. ISBN 1 8777274 07 0 73p.
Sequel to the Managing Change in Paradise report. Looks at approaches in Canada, South Africa and UK for managing residential development pressures at the urban fringe. Discusses the emergence of a new ecosystem-based approach, with supporting legislation and incentives, and clearly defined responsibilities for each level of government.

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 Inc., Wellington.
Chapter 3, p29-37 on Landscape Planning and Protection Useful summary of how district and regional plans can best provide for management and protection of landscapes. Presents the Hauraki Gulf Islands section of the Auckland City District Plan as an example of a good approach. A valuable reference if you are submitting on a district plan or regional coastal plan.

Peart, R. (2004) A Place to Stand: The Protection of New Zealands Natural and Cultural Landscapes.
Environmental Defence Society, Auckland.
Report looks at New Zealands important landscapes, threats to them, and how we could improve management to protect their values. Contains a review of case law, and contains five case studies of landscape management. Available from the Environmental Defence Society, see their website

Web-Based Resources

Resources: Site of the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects. Information resources can be found under news reports on topical landscape issues, conference papers, copies of institute submissions on policy issues and plans.

Resources: Site of the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust. Information about the Trusts landscape protection activities.

Resources: See this site for report entitled Natural Character: Concept Development in New Zealand Planning Law and Policy.' Report analyses the development of the term natural character in case law, with particular reference to the coastal environment.

Resources: Environmental Defence Society site has a section entitled Landscape Protection.

Resources: See under Key Issues for Landscape section

Resources: See Landscapes section under Guidance on Planning Topics.


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