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 Hazards

Text Hazardous Substances

The management of hazardous substances is achieved jointly through two pieces of legislation the RMA, and the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996. Under HSNO, substances can be classed as hazardous if they are sufficiently flammable, explosive, corrosive, acid or alkaline, toxic to humans, or ecotoxic (toxic to the environment).

RMA controls are site-based, and consist of;

  • Controls on the discharge of hazardous substances to land, air and water under the rules of regional plans. Plan rules set minimum standards for air and water quality. Resource consent conditions should ensure that these standards are maintained.

  • The use of land for the storage, use and transport or disposal of hazardous substances. District plan rules should minimise risks and effects, as should resource consent conditions.
RMA controls are not restricted to substances classified as hazardous under the HSNO Act. For example, substances such as dairy factory liquid waste, agricultural effluent or fertiliser can pose a hazard to human health or to the environment if present in strong enough concentrations. The law requires that RMA controls on substances classified under the HSNO Act must be as strict, or stricter, than the controls within the HSNO Act itself. RMA rules regarding these substances can show some flexibility, as the level of risk posed by discharges will vary with the sensitivity of the receiving environment, and activities on adjacent sites.

The controls of the HSNO Act and its regulations are consistent nationwide. They apply to a substance irrespective of its location. HSNO codes of practice provide controls that apply throughout the life cycle of a substances use ( importation or manufacture, transport, storage, use, disposal), and set bottom-line standards.

The Act is administered principally by the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA). ERMA assesses applications for the importation and use of hazardous substances. It considers risks and benefits, and introduces appropriate management controls. The application process provides for public participation.

Currently there is a transition period for the transfer of various categories of substances from previous legislation into HSNO. Dangerous goods and pesticides are being transferred in 2004.

Background information for concerned groups or individuals who wish to make submissions on resource consents or plans can be found in the MFE publications listed below. More reports are available from the Ministry for the Environment website.



MFE (2000) Assessment Guide for Hazardous Facilities
Ministry for the Environment, Wellington.
Guide for local and regional authorities. Outlines how to assess risks associated with hazardous facilities, and appropriate resource consent conditions.

MFE (2002) The Hazardous Facility Screening Procedure Training Manual.
Ministry for the Environment, Wellington.
Training manual for local and regional council staff who need to deal with resource consent applications. Useful for communities who wish to ensure that best practice is being followed.

MFE (2002) Land Use Planning Guide for Hazardous Facilities ME424
Ministry for the Environment, Wellington.
Guide to developing appropriate plan rules for hazardous facilities.

MFE (2003) Acting Together Links between the HSNO Act and the RMA.
Ministry for the Environment, Wellington.
A training manual covering use, transport, storage and disposal of hazardous substances. Contains advice on addressing RMA responsibilities for hazardous substances through regional and district plans, and through resource consents. Includes monitoring for compliance, and enforcement.

MFE (2003) Hazardous Substances Strategy: Strategy for Improving the Workability of Hazardous Substances Provisions of the HSNO Act. ME 476
Ministry for the Environment, Wellington.
Proposals for changes to the HSNO regime to reduce compliance costs through improved guidance, adoption of standards, conditions on approvals, use of generic approvals, development of codes of practice. Changes to HSNO Act will, in turn, affect control through the RMA.

Web-Based Resources

Resources: Information on managing hazardous substances, MFE's work programmes, and more MFE publications.

Resources: Perspective is ERMAs quarterly newsletter, Bulletin is a record of applications and decisions. Technical information and reports in the 'resources' section.

Resources: Information site for the HSNO Act 1996.

Resources: HSNO Act and Regulations are available on this site.


Relevant Case Law