RMA Amendment Act 2020

7 July 2020

The Resource Management Act (RMA) Amendment Act 2020 was passed on 30 June and has introduced to the RMA a provision for farm plans (Part 9A).  This development was signalled as part of the Government’s freshwater management announcements in May.

These provisions do not yet apply.  An Order of Council (made by the Governor-General) is needed to state which region, district, or part of New Zealand the new requirements apply to. 

Further detail will be added through regulation, including timeframes for certification and audit, criteria for the appointment of certifiers and auditors, any fees payable, and content requirements, etc.


In summary:

  • Horticultural land use ≥5 hectare will require a ‘certified freshwater farm plan’ (a 20 hectare threshold applies for other sectors or a combination of land uses)

  • The overall scheme will be:
    • Farm operator to prepare a freshwater farm plan
      • Content requirements for farm plans in Part 9A:
        • Identify any adverse effects of activities carried out on the farm on freshwater and freshwater ecosystems
        • Specific, clear and measurable requirements that are appropriate for avoiding, remedying or mitigating the adverse effects of those of activities on freshwater/freshwater ecosystems
        • Demonstrate how outcomes prescribed in regulation will be achieved. 
  • Submit the plan to a certifier for certification
    • Certifier notifies the regional council of the date of certification
    • [Timeframes to be set in regulation]. 
  • Arrange for audit
    • [Timeframes/frequency to be set in regulation]
    • Pass – the auditor’s report provided to the farm operator and the regional council
    • Fail – the auditor’s report must say why and specific reasonable timeframes for compliance to be achieved, before issuing a final report to the operator and regional council which indicates whether compliance is achieved. 
  • Regional Councils will:
    • monitor compliance
    • receive notifications of freshwater farm plans that have been certified
    • receive audit reports and related notifications from auditors
    • may require a farm operator to produce a certified freshwater farm plan for inspection
    • appoint one or more certifiers and auditors.

HortNZ will engage with Product Groups, Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) schemes and growers, and provide feedback from these groups into the development of the regulations.  At this stage, we are not clear on the process, but we anticipate there will be an opportunity for input over the next 12 months.