Protection of Natural Character

The Resource Management Act 1991 is the principal statute governing the management of natural character. Section 6(a) requires decision-makers to recognise and provide for, as a matter of national importance, ‘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’. The term “preserved” indicates the need to maintain natural character in its existing state. This is to be achieved, amongst other things, by its “protection” against inappropriate development.

The New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010 set out how natural character in the coastal environment is to be managed. Objective 2 is to preserve the natural character of the coastal environment … through recognising the characteristics and qualities that contribute to natural character … values and their location and distribution; identifying those areas where various forms of subdivision, use and development would be inappropriate and protecting them from such activities; and encouraging restoration of the coastal environment. Policy 13 requires avoidance of adverse effects on areas of outstanding natural character. It requires avoidance of significant adverse effects and avoidance, remediation and mitigation of other adverse effects on natural character in other areas of the coastal environment.

It is worth emphasising that section 6(a) applies to wetlands, lakes, rivers and their margins as well as the coastal environment. Given the existence of the NZCPS, the national importance of preserving the natural character of freshwater environments outside the coastal environment is sometimes overlooked.

Last updated at 2:14PM on February 25, 2015