Process for new plans and plan changes under the RMA

The Nationally Significant Proposal (NSP) provisions of the Resource Management Act (RMA) can apply to the development of new plans and plan changes in certain situations.

You can apply to us with a request for the preparation of a regional plan (other than a regional coastal plan) or a request for a change to a regional or district plan.

After receiving a request we will make a recommendation to the Minister for the Environment as to whether or not to they should refer the matter to a board of inquiry, the Environment Court, or the local authority. The matter can only be referred to a board of inquiry or the Environment Court ('called in') if it is, or is part of, a proposal of national significance.

A council cannot make a direct application to us for the preparation of a plan or a plan change. However, it can request that the Minister for the Environment (or Minister of Conservation in the case of a Regional Coastal Plan) call in the following plan situations:

  • A plan change (including a change to a regional coastal plan) or a request for change that has been adopted by the council

  • A request for the preparation of a regional plan that has been adopted by the council

  • A variation to its proposed plan.

The Minister for the Environment (or Minister of Conservation in the case of a Regional Coastal Plan), can also call in a plan or a plan change at his or her own initiative.

The Minister may request advice from us on whether the matter is a proposal of national significance and for a recommendation on where the matter should be referred to for a decision (such as a board of inquiry or the Environment Court). We may request further information from you in preparing our advice and recommendation.

The process for a new plan or plan change that is called in

If the matter is called in, different notification and decision-making processes apply, depending on whether the Minister refers it to a board of inquiry or the Environment Court. There are also specific provisions that apply for direct applications for the preparation of regional plans or plan change requests. 

In all cases:

  1. After the Minister issues a direction to call in a matter, we must give public notice of the Minister’s direction and serve certain persons with the notice, and provide a 30-working-day submission period. All the information about the particular proposal will be made available on our website.
  2. Anyone can make a submission on a proposal. A submission form is made available on our website, with information about how to make a submission.
  3. After the submission period closes, we produce a summary of all the submissions received on the matter. We publicly notify the summary, including information about where the submissions can be viewed, and provide a 10-working-day period for further submissions.

    Only people representing a relevant aspect of the public interest, or who have an interest in the proposal greater than the general public, or are the local authority, may make a further submission.

    We will provide all submissions and further submissions to the Board of Inquiry or Environment Court, depending on where the Minister has referred the matter for decision.
  4. Where the matter is to be heard by the Environment Court, we do not have any further role with how the matter is progressed and the Court will set timeframes and procedural requirements. The Environment Court will hold a public hearing
  5. If the matter is heard by a board of inquiry, we continue to have a role with providing secretarial and support services to the Board. The Board will hold a hearing (unless no-one wants to be heard).
  6. There is opportunity to appeal a decision of a board of inquiry or the Environment Court to the High Court only on questions of law. Otherwise, the local authority must then implement the decision.

Find out more about about boards of inquiry