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07 Jun 2018

Draft National Planning Standards 

Since the inception of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) there have been discussions about standardising the format of plans, or having a model or template plan; however, the idea only became part of legislation in 2017 when the National Planning Standards (planning standards, or standards) were introduced as part of the Resource Legislation Amendment Act 2017 (RLAA). 

RLAA introduced new sections 58B to 58J, to create a new type of national direction called National Planning Standards. The planning standards will form a standardised national framework for RMA plans and policy statements. 

The planning standards are intended to improve consistency in plan and policy statement structure, format and content so they are easier to prepare, understand, compare and comply with. The standards are also intended to reduce the complexity and cost of creating plans and policy statements, and make plans and policy statements more user friendly.

The wide variation in plans has also meant that national directions such as National Environmental Standards (NES) and National Policy Statements (NPS) are often slowly, poorly and inconsistently implemented in plans and policy statements, affecting the effectiveness of these instruments. 

Standardising plan format and definitions is long overdue. It will reduce compliance costs, and address some of the justified criticism made by those who find RMA plans unduly complex. 

This draft set of planning standards focuses on aligning the structure, form, e-delivery and some common content of RMA plans. It does not determine policy matters. The standards are intended to enable local councils and plan users to focus their time and resources on the local content important to them. The standards will help plans be more concise, with less formal, elaborate explanations needed. 

A number of councils and plan users have helped with the drafting and testing of the planning standards, and we thank them for this feedback and advice. The Ministry for the Environment will continue this partnership with presentations and meetings around the country in June and July, and conversations with submitters. 

The draft first set of national planning standards (referred to as ‘planning standards’ in this document) is now released for written submissions under Section 58D(3) of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) on 6 June 2018, along with an evaluation report and related guidance material. The draft planning standards and all related documents can be downloaded from the Ministry for the Environment’s website. This consultation document is a companion to the draft first set of planning standards. The consultation document gives an overview of the draft planning standards, what they aim to achieve, and implementation considerations. 

The proposed National Planning Standards are different from plans and policy statements normally evaluated under section 32, as they do not contain content; that is, there are no objectives, policies methods or rules to evaluate. Therefore the planning standards will not lead to direct changes in environmental outcomes, but changes in processes. This means some parts of section 32 need to be adapted to assess the proposals in a format that is likely to be different from the ones people are used to seeing. 

Submissions close at 5.00 pm on Friday 17 August 2018. 

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