Plan Making

Plan Making


There are three general processes for developing regional policy statements, regional plans and district plans under the Resource Management Act:

  • The standard "Schedule 1" process;
  • The limited notification process, which is a variation of the standard Schedule 1 process; and
  • The streamlined process.

There is one freshwater specific planning process.  All freshwater planning instruments are required to go through this process.  A freshwater planning instrument is:

  • A proposed regional policy statement or policy statement for the purpose of giving effect to any national policy statement for freshwater management
  • A proposed regional plan or regional plan for the purpose of giving effect to any national policy statement for freshwater management
  • A change or variation to those instruments for the purpose of giving effect to any national policy statement for freshwater management, or which otherwise relates to freshwater.


 A “plan change” is the process that councils use to prepare changes to an operative policy statement or plan.

A “variation” is a change prepared by a council to a proposed policy statement or plan change.

A “proposed policy statement” or “proposed plan” is a policy statement or plan which has been notified but has not become operative.

A “regional policy statement” or “regional plan” is a policy statement or plan that is operative.

The standard Schedule 1 process

Regional policy statements, regional plans and district plans may all be changed using the process set out in Schedule 1 of the Resource Management Act as illustrated in the two diagrams below. 5139  Note – In addition to the steps illustrated below the Minister of Conservation must approve each regional coastal plan. 5140

The limited notification process 

The limited notification process may be used for a proposed change or variation where there is an identifiable group of persons “directly affected” by the proposed change or variation. It follows the standard Schedule 1 process, except that full public notification is not required.  Only those persons identified as being directly affected by the proposed change or variation and the relevant Ministers, local authorities, and iwi authorities are notified, have the right to lodge submissions, participate in a hearing, and lodge an appeal on the decision. 5141

The streamlined process

Councils may make a request to the Minister to use a streamlined planning process for a proposed policy statement, plan, plan change or variation. The process is intended to provide an expeditious planning process that is proportionate to the complexity and significance of the planning issues being considered.  It is intended to provide greater flexibility in planning processes and timeframes and allow these to be tailored to specific issues and circumstances. 

The freshwater planning process

Regional council’s must prepare freshwater planning instruments using the freshwater planning process. 5142   If a council is preparing a proposed regional policy statement or proposed plan that addresses matters other than freshwater, the freshwater parts must still be prepared using the freshwater specific process and the other parts are to be prepared using the standard process.  

The freshwater planning instrument must be publicly notified and opportunity for public submissions provided.  The freshwater planning process is then overseen by a Freshwater Hearings Panel.  This Panel is convened by the Chief Freshwater Commissioner.  The Freshwater Hearings Panel is to conduct a public hearing of the submissions on the instrument.  After the public hearing is concluded the Freshwater Hearings Panel must make recommendations to the regional council on the freshwater planning instrument.

The regional council may accept or reject any recommendation from the Freshwater Hearings Panel. For each rejected recommendation it must decide an alternative solution. No later than 40 working days after it is provided with the report, the regional council must publicly notify its decisions, including the reasons for rejecting any recommendations. 5143

Appeal rights against the council’s decisions are limited. Submitters are able to appeal a provision or matter to the Environment Court on the merits if they addressed that provision or matter in their submission, or the recommendation was outside the scope of submissions, and the regional council had rejected a recommendation of the Freshwater Hearings Panel and decided on an alternative solution which led to that provision or matter being included or deleted.  In respect of recommendations accepted by the regional council it is only possible to appeal to the High Court on points of law.  The highest court that can be appealed on points of law to is the Court of Appeal.  Opportunity to appeal to the Supreme Court is prohibited.  Judicial review of decisions on freshwater planning instruments remains available.

  1. Part 1, Schedule 1, Resource Management Act 1991

  2. Clause 19, Schedule 1, Resource Management Act 1991

  3. Clause 5A, Schedule 1, Resource Management Act 1991

  4. Subpart 4, Part 5 Resource Management Act 1991

    Part 4, Schedule 1 Resource Management Act 1991

  5. Schedule 1, Clause 52, Resource Management Act 1991

Last updated at 3:16PM on August 20, 2021