The Resource Legislation Amendment Act (RLAA) received royal assent on 18 April 2017. The commencement of the RLAA is staggered, with amendments to the RMA commencing either the day after royal assent (19 April 2017), six months after the royal assent (18 October 2017) or in 5 years' time (18 April 2022). Commencement is complicated, and all the changes to one provision are not necessarily in the same place. Careful checking is required to ensure that there is a clear understanding of which amendments have commenced, and which have not.

The amendments which have already commenced include:

  • The amendment to section 6, to include reference to the management of significant risks from natural hazards
  • The new procedural principles in section 18A and 35 that set out the obligations of every person exercising powers and performing functions under the RMA
  • Amendments to territorial authority and regional council functions (section 30 and 31)

The major changes to the RMA come into effect on 18 October 2017. Being aware of what these changes are will be critical, as will amending processes to ensure compliance with the new obligations. In terms of resource consent applications, the changes that come into effect on 18 October include the amended notification provisions, the fast track processes for certain activities, and the standards for a "deemed" permitted activity.

The amendments which commence in 5 years' time include the removal of the ability to impose financial contributions through resource consent conditions.

In addition, there are transitional provisions which govern how resource consents and plan changes, and other instruments which are already in progress should be managed. The transitional provisions provide that where a consent application was lodged prior to the commencement of an amendment to the RMA, that amendment does not apply to that particular application. For example, this means that any consent application lodged prior to 18 October 2017 notification will be determined against the prior version of the RMA, not the amended version. The transitional provisions also apply to proposed policy statements and plans. Where a proposed plan is publicly notified prior to the commencement of an amendment, the proposed Plan does not need to be assessed against that amendment.