Major changes to the Resource Management process announced by Environment Minister David  Parker on Friday include the creation of a new planning zone specifically for Maori.

Under the changes,  which essentially seek to enforce nationwide consistency in resource plans, Councils will be required to include a chapter in their plans for tāngata whenua/mana whenua-related content.

This would create zones where Maori would have a right to undertake activities such as building a marae or providing housing for iwi.

Any objections from non-Maori would require a court challenge.  

Ministry for the Environment explanatory notes, which Parker’s office referred POLITIK to say: “The planning standards include a Māori purpose zone that may be used.

“This could be used for a range of activities that specifically meet Māori needs, including papakāinga, marae and areas of Māori-owned land where development is taking place.”

It is not clear from the notes whether the Maori Purpose Zone would preclude other activities taking place within it.

Councils have varying times with which to comply with the new standard ranging from seven to ten years.

The standard has a long list of matters on which Councils must engage with local iwi and require, in the plan, an explanation of how hapū or iwi values have been considered when preparing the policy statement or plan, “or are reflected in the policy statement or Tangata whenua/mana whenua – local authority relationships.”

In the Cabinet paper seeking approval to implement the changes, released by the Minister, he says: “Iwi groups generally supported the planning standards and the proposed location of tangata whenua provisions. Their most common concern was ensuring that Māori values and perspectives would be included and integrated throughout policy statements and plans.”


Parker says those submissions formed the basis of the changes relating to Maori.

The Cabinet paper says that most of the submissions on the whole package of proposals were from business groups and Councils —  “Approximately two-thirds of submissions stated some support for the planning standards and approximately 10 per cent opposed them. “

“21. Business and industry groups expressed support for the consistency and efficiencies the planning standards would bring. Their most common concern was the potential for established provisions for their activities to be re-litigated through the RMA Schedule 1 plan process.”

The “Schedule 1 process” is a reference to the process that allows anybody to submit on provisions in a draft regional or district plan. That was seen to excess during the preparation of the Auckland Unitary Plan.

Auckland Council received more than 9400 submissions on the proposed plan and then another 3800 further submissions either supporting or opposing those original submissions.

However this issue goes to the heart of the Resource Management Act itself and would require amendment of that for the ability to make submissions to be limited or changed.

Nevertheless, Parker’s move has to be seen as the first step on the path to amendments he is proposing to the Act.

The planning standard with its more precise definition of how National Environmental Standards and National Policy standards will apply to Councils will be particularly relevant when Parker produces his National Environmental Standard on freshwater.

The chapter requiring Councils to consult local iwi will be particularly relevant to that since there is still no agreement between Maori and the Minister over the allocation of nitrate discharge rights which will be critical to any plan to clean up waterways.

There is now a possibility that the actual negotiation with Maori will be carried out by Councils rather than central government.

Parker says the  new standards “do not determine local policy matters or the substantive content of plans, which remain the responsibility of local councils and communities.

“The Standards will improve how the RMA operates and reduce costs to both councils and plan users,” he said in a statement on Friday.