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Amendments to the Resource Management Act - Māori participation

By Charlotte Muggeridge - December 2017

In this article, we outline the changes to the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) in relation to iwi participation in policy statements (statements) and plan changes which took effect on 19 April 2017.

Current iwi participation

Informal arrangements between councils and iwi groups are common: examples include joint management agreements and advisory boards. However, without specific statutory requirements, local authorities can have limited opportunities and policies in place for Māori participation. These amendments aim to create greater consistency throughout all regions with an objective to establish better working relationships between local authorities and iwi.

What has changed?

The amended Schedule 1, clause 4A, states:

  • Before notification of a proposed statement or a plan change, a local authority must provide a copy of the draft statement or plan to the relevant/local iwi authorities.
  • The local authority must allow adequate time and opportunity for those iwi authorities to consider the draft statement or plan and provide advice on it.
  • When those iwi authorities give advice on the statement or plan, the local authority must have particular regard to any of that advice.

How must local authorities have particular regard to iwi advice?

Section 32 reports

Section 32 of the RMA has been amended so that when a local authority completes its evaluation report on a statements or plan change, it must include summaries from the advice iwi provided, and consider how the new statement or plan change responds to that advice.

Commissioner appointments

These provisions apply when local authorities appoint commissioners for hearings on statements or plan changes. Section 34A has been amended to require local authorities to consult with iwi on whether it would be appropriate to appoint a commissioner who has an understanding of tikanga Māori and can speak to the perspectives of the iwi involved.

This requirement does not apply to hearings in collaborative or streamlined planning processes.  Instead, for a collaborative process, one member of the collaborative group must be appointed by iwi and at least one member of the review panel must have an understanding of tikanga Māori and be able to communicate perspectives of tikanga whenua. Under a streamlined process, the Minister may direct a hearing where the provisions of s 34A(1A) apply.

Mana Whakahono a Rohe

Mana Whakahono a Rohe is a way in which agreements between local authorities and iwi can be recorded. This new arrangement is arguably one of the most significant changes (outside the Treaty settlements process) which seeks to enable iwi and local authorities to create constructive and up front relationships.

This relationship can be between a local authority and an iwi or hapū. The iwi or hapū can invite the local authority to form a Mana Whakahono a Rohe. The local authority must convene a hui where discussions can take place to form joint arrangements. This process is run alongside (rather than instead of) other RMA processes.

An arrangement should include discussion on:

  • How iwi will participate in plan making processes;
  • How consultation that is required under the RMA will be undertaken with iwi;
  • How iwi may participate in the development of monitoring methodologies;
  • How any relevant Treaty settlements will be given effect; 
  • A process for managing conflicts of interest;
  • A process for resolving disputes.

An arrangement may identify:

  • How iwi authorities will work collectively to engage with council;
  • Any delegation from iwi to a person or group of persons (including hapū) how a council consults iwi on resource consents;
  • Any other arrangements relating to RMA processes.

If a Mana Whakahono a Rohe has been established, it is the local authority’s responsibility to formalise its internal arrangements, and create a process to ensure that any agreed arrangements will be followed in practice.

These new amendments have the potential for iwi and local authorities to have a more integrated approach to decision making.

Charlotte is a Solicitor in our Property Team and can be contacted on 07 958 7439.