For many years, the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) has been the main law governing how we use land, air, freshwater and coastal areas.

Before you start any activity that might affect your neighbours, your wider community or your environment, contact your local council or check their website.

If you have already contacted your local council or they have informed you that DOC are an affected party submit a resource consent application form (Word, 409K) and supporting documents to

What is the RMA?

The Resource Management Act (RMA) is New Zealand's key piece of legislation to manage the effects of use and development of natural and physical resources. 

Getting in on the Act outlines for the public what the RMA does, how it works, and how it affects you in your daily life.

Key decision-makers under the RMA are:

What influences decisions made under the RMA?

There are a number of policies and documents that provide direction for decisions made under the RMA. These include:

For more information on the role of councils, and other statutory bodies see the Environment Foundation website.

When and why does DOC become involved?

DOC was created under the Conservation Act 1987 (s5) and its functions are outlined in section 6 of that Act. These functions include advocating for the conservation of natural and historic resources generally (s6(b)). The Conservation General Policy then describes the reasons that DOC may become involved in statutory processes. For example:

Policy 7(d) The Department should undertake statutory advocacy to protect natural resources and historical and cultural heritage outside public conservation lands and waters and for the benefit and enjoyment of the public, including public access, in particular where (for example, ii.) indigenous terrestrial or aquatic species or recreational freshwater fisheries are threatened with loss or decline.

DOC has a role in ensuring that species, habitats and other resources of interest to DOC, including the national priorities for biodiversity, are recognised in RMA decision making.

Specific areas of interest may be outlined within a Conservation Management Strategy and/or a Management Plan.  As outlined above DOC has some specific functions under the RMA, including supporting the Minister of Conservations functions for the Marine area.

Remember DOC also has to keep in mind its other statutory responsibilities which may be triggered by an activity that is proposed to be consented under the RMA. These include disturbing wildlife protected under the Wildlife Act, or installing a structure that impedes fish passage (which requires DOC approval under Freshwater Fisheries Regulations 1983 specifically s42(1)).

There can be a variety of ways that this may lead to DOC being involved in an RMA process – DOC may be a:

Affected person

The relevant local authority may consider DOC to be an ‘affected person’ if the potential effects of an activity on DOC’s interests are likely to be ‘minor or more than minor’ (s95E RMA).

Affected person section on Ministry for the Environment (MfE) website: outlines what a person’s rights are if they are determined by the council to be an affected person.

The process of considering giving DOCs approval as an affected person is coordinated by Operations Rangers. In most cases the decision-maker is the Operations Manager.

Activities on public conservation ‘DOC’ land

Being a landowner close to an activity requiring a resource consent is often a reason to be considered an affected person.

If DOC is the ‘landowner’ and the activity is proposed to be on public conservation land then the applicant will also require approvals for the activity from DOC, under conservation legislation; these may include a Permission or an Access Arrangement.

An applicant might apply for the relevant DOC approvals before, after or at the same time as they apply for a resource consent.


If an application is notified (either limited notification to affected persons, or public notification) then DOC may choose to lodge a submission.  Submissions are a mechanism which can be used to support or oppose an application.

Limited notification may occur if the consent authority determines that DOC is an affected person (by virtue of process outlined above) and the applicant has not sought written approval, or if DOC chooses not to provide its affected party approval. Public notification is only likely for large projects that potentially affect a significant number of people and/or have a significant impact on use of public resources (adverse effects are more than minor).

DOC also engages in Plan and Policy development. DOC engages in these processes when its involvement is likely to lead to enduring conservation gains.

DOC’s interests

Listed below are examples of the areas or types of activities where DOC may consider engaging in RMA issues.


  • The implementation of the principles and policies of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010 in the Coastal Environment and land based activities that may impact this environment
  • Protected marine areas or proposed protected marine areas including areas of significant conservation value
  • Areas adjoining or connected to protected marine areas including protection of the quality of waters flowing into those protected areas
  • Any crown owned seabed
  • The presence of rare or threatened species.


  • Protected freshwater areas, including geothermal
  • Proposed protected freshwater areas
  • The integrity of freshwater natural ecosystems and habitats
  • Maintenance and where necessary enhancement of freshwater habitats, including those providing access for migratory species, and or important to the survival of indigenous freshwater fish stocks
  • The natural character of wetlands, lakes and rivers and their margins, and their protection from inappropriate subdivision, use and development
  • Geothermal fields which support nationally important geothermal areas
  • The aquifers and catchments supporting nationally important freshwater protected areas
  • Nationally important lakes, and rivers
  • Activities impacting on wetlands
  • Activities on areas adjoining and/or connected to significant protected heritage waters which are protected or candidates for protection


  • Existing protected areas
  • Proposed protected areas (degradation, loss or fragmentation)
  • Natural land ecosystems and habitats that are important for safeguarding indigenous biodiversity
  • The habitat of protected and/or threatened species
  • Areas adjoining and/or connected to significant protected heritage lands
  • Any nationally outstanding geological and geothermal features and landforms listed in the Geopreservation Index and which are highly vulnerable to complete destruction or major modification by human activity
  • Landscapes significant in the protection of the natural character of the coastal environment and lakes, rivers, wetlands and their margins
  • Activities which may degrade the experience of visitors to any protected area managed by DOC
  • Any structure, infrastructure, walkway, track, road or other asset owned, leased or managed by DOC not located on a protected area, or its intellectual property

RMA/EEZA Strategy

The RMA/EEZA Strategy sets out the priorities for DOC’s engagement in Resource Management Act processes and our approach around advocacy.


Hamilton Shared Service Centre
Private Bag 3072 Hamilton 3240
Ph +64 7 858 1000

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