The Resource Management Act (RMA) was enacted in New Zealand by the National Government in 1991. The RMA was significant because it integrated either partially or completely, 69 existing pieces of legislation into the one Act. This made planning and surveying in New Zealand significantly easier.
A significant component of the RMA is the introduction of sustainability, which is defined in section 5 (purpose) of the RMA as:
Section 5 - Purpose
- The purpose of this Act is to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources.
- In this Act, sustainable management means managing the use, development, and protection of natural and physical resources in a way, or at a rate, which enables people and communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural well being and for their health and safety while -
- Sustaining the potential of natural and physical resources (excluding minerals) to meet the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations; and
- Safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil, and ecosystems; and
- Avoiding, remedying, or mitigating any adverse effects of activities on the environment.
The extraction of minerals (for example oil, coal, gas and gravel) are generally dealt with under the Crown Minerals Act 1991, because the extraction of minerals cannot be undertaken in a sustainable way and therefore would be in contradiction to the RMA.
Sustainable management, Matters of National Importance, other matters of importance and the Treaty of Waitangi are all required to be considered.
Section 6 lists matters of national importance that shall be 'recognised and provided for' in achieving the purpose of the RMA:
- natural character of the coastal environment:
- outstanding natural features and landscapes:
- significant indigenous habitats and vegetation:
- public access to waterbodies:
- Maori culture, traditions, ancestral lands, water, sites, waahi tapu, and taonga:
- historic heritage:
- recognised customary activities.
Section 7 lists matters that all decisions 'shall have particular regard to' in achieving the purpose of the RMA:
- efficient use and development of natural and physical resources:
- efficiency of the end use of energy:
- amenity values:
- quality of the environment:
- finite characteristics of natural and physical resources:
- habitat of trout and salmon:
- climate change:
- renewable energy.
Under the Act, regional, city or district councils must prepare Regional, city or District plans showing how they will manage the environment in their area.