When do policy statements and plans enter into force?

When objectives, policies and methods take legal effect

Decision makers determining an application for resource consent are required to have regard to objectives, policies, and methods in a proposed policy statement or plan from the date that a proposed policy statement or plan is publicly notified. 757

However, the Resource Management Act does not accord proposed plans equal importance with operative plans, rather the weight to be given to the provisions of a proposed plan will depend on the extent to which it has proceeded through the submissions and appeal process and in some circumstances a proposed plan may be given more weight than an operative plan. The relevant considerations include: 758

  • The extent to which the proposed measure has been exposed to testing and independent decisionā€making
  • Circumstances of injustice
  • The extent to which a new measure, or the absence of one, might implement a coherent pattern of objectives and policies in a plan
  • Whether there had been a significant shift in Council policy which the new provisions implement
  • Whether the new provisions are in accordance with Part 2 of the Resource Management Act

When rules take legal effect

A rule in a proposed plan generally has legal effect once a decision on submissions relating to the rule is made by the council and publicly notified. 759  There are however a number of exceptions:

  • Where no submissions in opposition are lodged a rule is treated as operative when the time for making submissions has expired
  • Where the relevant rule protects or relates to water, air or soil, significant indigenous vegetation, significant habitats of indigenous fauna, historic heritage, or provides for or relates to aquaculture activities, the rule will have legal effect once the proposed rule is publicly notified
  • The Environment Court can order that a rule will have legal effect from a different date
  • A local authority can resolve that a rule has legal effect only once the plan is operative

Rules which are to have early or delayed legal effect must be clearly identified in the proposed plan. 760

A rule which has “legal effect” must be complied with. 761  

The Resource Management Act does not specify how the Environment Court should determine an application for an order that a rule will have legal effect from a different date. The Environment Court has agreed that the following matters should be considered: 762

  • The nature and effect of the proposed changes by reference to the status quo
  • The basis upon which it can be said that immediate legal effect is necessary to achieve the sustainable management purpose of the RMA
  • The spatial extent of the area/s which are to become subject to the proposed changes and/or the approximate number of properties potentially affected
  • Consultation (if any) that has been undertaken in relation to the proposed changes
  • Whether the application should be limited or publicly notified, including consideration of potential prejudice

The Environment Court has made an order for rules controlling subdivision and buildings in coastal hazard areas to have legal effect from notification. The factors in favour of making the order were: the protection of people and land from coastal erosion and flooding was consistent with the purpose of the Resource Management Act, a precautionary approach was appropriate given the potential effects of erosion and flooding and consistent with the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010, and the plan was the culmination of a comprehensive planning process. 763

When a policy statement or plan becomes operative

A policy statement or plan becomes operative (and any previous policy statement or plan inoperative) on a date notified by the local authority following resolution of all submissions and any appeals. 764  A local authority can approve part of a policy statement or plan if all submissions and appeals relating to it have been resolved and that part can then be made operative by order of the Environment Court. 765

  1. Section 104(1)(b) Resource Management Act 1991

  2. Keystone Watch Group v Auckland City Council (NZEnvC A7/2001)

  3. Section 86B Resource Management Act 1991

  4. Section 86E Resource Management Act 1991

  5. Re New Plymouth District Council [2010] NZEnvC 280

  6. Re Thames-Coromandel District Council [2013] NZEnvC 292, at [9-10]

  7. Re Tasman District Council [2011] NZEnvC 47

  8. Clause 20 Schedule 1 Resource Management Act 1991

  9. Clause 17(2) Schedule 1 Resource Management Act 1991

Last updated at 9:32AM on January 8, 2015