Regional coastal plans are prepared by regional councils to achieve the sustainable management of their coastal environment.

Regional coastal plans are plans prepared by regional councils and unitary authorities for the coastal marine area of a region. Their purpose is to assist these councils in achieving the sustainable management of their coastal environment. The plans include objectives, policies and rules that govern what activities the councils will allow, control or prohibit in the coastal environment. The plans are a tool used to manage any actual or potential effects from the use, development, or protection of the coastal marine area.

In terms of the Resource Management Act 1991 all regional councils are required to prepare a regional coastal plan. To ensure consistency and integration of the management of the coastal environment throughout New Zealand, the regional coastal plans must give effect to the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement (NZCPS).

In many instances, regional coastal plans are not standalone documents and have been incorporated into regional plans or unitary plans. In some instances, this has been required by legislation (eg Chatham Island Resource Management Document and Auckland Unitary Plan).

For the coastal environment of the Hauraki Gulf, the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act 2000 requires that sections 7 and 8 of that Act must be treated as a New Zealand coastal policy statement issued under the Act.  Section 10(2) of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act 2000 states that if there is a conflict between sections 7 and 8 and the provisions of the NZCPS, the NZCPS prevails.

The Minister of Conservation must approve all regional coastal plans and any changes to them. This includes the approval of the provisions of any combined plan that apply in the coastal marine area.

DOC's involvement

The Minister of Conservation’s responsibilities for coastal planning are represented by DOC in day to day planning processes. When councils are preparing regional coastal plans DOC assists councils, where it can, by providing any relevant information it has before the public process starts. DOC participates in the public process by making submissions, attending pre-hearing meetings and, where necessary, giving evidence at hearings.

If an individual or organisation that has made a submission objects to the inclusion of some provisions in a coastal plan, they can make an appeal to the Environment Court. In some cases DOC may appeal to the Environment Court if the proposed plan does not give effect to the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement, contains provisions that are ultra vires, or is not considered appropriate.

Once councils have adopted their plan it, or the relevant provisions, are is forwarded to the Minister of Conservation for approval.

Streamlined planning process

The Resource Management Act has been amended to enable councils to, under certain circumstances, make a request to the relevant Minister to use a streamlined planning process instead of the standard planning process, for a proposed policy statement, plan, plan change or variation (“proposed planning instrument”).

If a council wishes to use a streamlined planning process, it must make a request to the Minister for the Environment or, if the process is for a regional coastal plan, the Minister of Conservation. If the proposed planning instrument covers a regional coastal plan and another type of plan or policy statement, a council must apply to both the Minister of Conservation and the Minister for the Environment.

The Minister(s) must consider the request against criteria and either, issue a Direction to the council setting out the process, or decline the request. The Act specifies some process steps that must be included in the Direction as a minimum. Otherwise, steps and timeframes in the Direction can be tailored by the Minister to suit the planning issues involved.  Where a Direction is issued the council must then follow the procedural steps and timeframes in the Direction rather than following the standard process. 

The council must then submit its proposed planning instrument to the Minister(s) who may either approve it, refer it back with recommended changes or decline to approve it.

Streamlined planning process at the MfE website – includes fact sheet, technical guidance for potential applicants and an application form

Contact DOC staff as early as possible if you are considering a streamlined planning application.

Restricted coastal activities

The Resource Management Act previously provided for restricted coastal activities, these provisions have been repealed.

Transitional provisions relating to restricted coastal activities included in regional coastal plans in accordance with the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 1994 are also set out in Policy 29 of the NZCPS 2010.

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