Resource Management Act

The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) is a framework for governing the planning and development of New Zealand. The RMA sets out who has what responsibilities in local and central government, and the rules for carrying out the planning process. It applies to the construction of all infrastructure, including transport infrastructure such as roads, railway lines, airports, ports and ferry terminals.

Problems with the Act

The RMA has long been criticised for its time-consuming processes and tendency for the same issues to return to court again and again. The complexity of the law has also led to questions about the ability of some smaller local authorities to meet its many demands.

In comparable countries, a rule of thumb for large projects is that the planning process will typically take up a third of the project time. In New Zealand the planning process for large projects typically takes two thirds of the project time.

The costs of major roading projects in New Zealand are two to three times higher per kilometre than in nations such as Australia, Portugal, Chile, France, Malaysia or Greece. In many nations improving the efficiency of the planning process is a continuous and ongoing part of Government at all levels.

The New Zealand Government is undertaking a two stage review of the Act with initial changes due before the end of 2009.

AA speaking up for motorists

More efficient processes will deliver better results

Motorists pay billions of dollars in taxes for roading each year. It's reasonable for them to expect that the process for spending that money delivers greater safety, better fuel efficiency and less congestion as efficiently as possible.

While AA Members recognise there are environmental costs and impacts from transport infrastructure development and from using their cars, they do not see spending money on inefficient processes as a means of reducing that impact.

In countries similar to our own, issues relating to the maintenance of the environment are dealt with far more efficiently by:

  • Having an overall national plan for infrastructure and development
  • Better democratic procedures for determining the wishes of the majority in regional planning, rather than allowing the minority a disproportionate influence
  • Focusing the law on sustainable development (in line with the UN Brundtland Commission definition) rather than sustainable management of existing resources
  • Managing regional development at a regional level and community development at a community level, rather than trying to manage it all in the middle at a city or district level
  • Clear national environmental standards rather than regional variations
  • Single project hearings on matters of environmental impact so that decisions on design scope can be settled quickly
  • Immediate promotion of hearings to a court of suitable seniority in respect to the size of the project

What AA Members are saying

AA Members have very strong concerns for the environment, but very little support for measures that either reduce roading investment and maintenance, or increase car running costs in a March 2007 Survey.

Did you know?

  • A study for the Ministry for the Environment in 2003 found that the RMA process took an average eight years for large roading projects.
  • The Ministerial Advisory Group on Roading Costs in 2006 found that one project had escalated from $82 million to $359 million in just five years due largely to changes forced by the need to obtain resource consents.

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