The Campbell Brown Blog

New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010

The New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010 (NZCPS) came into force on 3 December 2010. The NZCPS is a key policy document under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA).  It provides direction to decision-makers on how they should provide for coastal management in New Zealand through regional policy statements and regional and district plans.  The objectives and policies are intended to guide decision makers in drafting policy statements and plans that in any way relate to the coastal environment. The NZCPS is also required to be considered when making a decision on consent applications, notices of requirement and plan changes.

The NZCPS 2010 replaces the previous NZCPS 1994.  There has been a lengthy and controversial process leading to the approval of the NZCPS 2010, including an independent review, an extensive board of inquiry process and even a leaked board of inquiry report.

The NZCPS 2010 sets out policies on coastal issues including protection of outstanding natural features and landscapes, planning for subdivision, use, and development, protection of biodiversity and water quality, and management of coastal hazard risks. The effect of the NZCPS 2010 on RMA planning documents is of critical importance to those with an interest in the use, development and protection of the coastal environment. The Minister of Conservation has stated that the updated “NZCPS will give Councils clearer direction on protecting and managing New Zealand’s coastal environment”.

Key changes to the NZCPS include:

  • greater direction on protection of natural character, outstanding landscapes, biodiversity and nationally significant surf breaks
  • a stronger requirement to identify where water quality is degraded and should be enhanced
  • direction on maintenance of public access to and along the coast, identifying walking access as the basic priority and better management of vehicles on beaches
  • updated policy on the management of coastal hazard risks.

From the date that the NZCPS 2010 comes into force all regional policy statements, regional and district plans and proposed plans and variations must give effect to the objectives and policies in the NZCPS 2010 ‘as soon as practicable’.  The policies will not have immediate effect as councils must use the process set out in Schedule 1 of the RMA.

One exception to this is Policy 29 on ‘Restricted Coastal Activities’, which requires local authorities to amend their planning documents so that no activity is specified as a ‘restricted coastal activity’ (RCA) in the regional coastal plan. This has the effect that any activity specified as a discretionary activity and a RCA becomes a discretionary activity only and any activity specified as a non-complying activity and a RCA becomes a non-complying activity only. The effect of this policy is that there will no longer be an obligation on regional councils to involve the Minister in the coastal permit application process.

Policy 29 of the NZCPS 2010 provides that local authorities are to amend all planning documents as necessary to give effect to Policy 29 as soon as practicable without using the process in Schedule 1 of the RMA. This means that Policy 29 has immediate effect, and that there will be no public submission process.  There are transitional provisions for applications that are currently under consideration.

The NZCPS contains 7 objectives:

1. To safeguard the integrity, form, functioning and resilience of the coastal environment and sustain its ecosystems, including marine and intertidal areas, estuaries, dunes and land;

2. To preserve the natural character of the coastal environment and protect natural features and landscape values;

3. To take account of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, recognise the role of Tangata Whenua as Kaitiaki and provide for Tangata Whenua involvement in management of the coastal environment;

4. To maintain and enhance the public open space qualities and recreation opportunities of the coastal environment;

5. To ensure that coastal hazard risks taking account of climate change are managed;

6. To enable people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural wellbeing and their health and safety, through subdivision, use, and development;

7. To ensure that management of the coastal environment recognises and provides for New Zealand’s international obligations regarding the coastal environment, including the coastal marine area.

Some notable features of the NZCPS 2010 policies include:

Policy 3 provides that decision-makers are to adopt a precautionary approach towards proposed activities whose effects in the coastal environment are uncertain, unknown or little understood, but potentially significantly adverse.

Policy 7 of the NZCPS 2010 ‘Strategic Planning’ requires local authorities to identify and protect areas of the coastal environment where particular activities are ‘inappropriate’ and ‘may be inappropriate without the consideration of effects through a resource consent application, notice of requirement for designation or plan change process.

Under Policy 8 local authorities are to include in regional policy statements and regional coastal plans provision for aquaculture activities in appropriate places in the coastal environment (Policy 8). It will be beneficial for those with interests in the aquaculture industry to ensure their aquaculture site is included in the planning documents as an ‘appropriate’ place because it will make it easier to establish an aquaculture activity in these identified areas.

Policy 10 provides that reclamations of land in the coastal marine area are to be avoided unless land outside the coastal marine area is not available for the proposed activity or the activity which requires reclamation can only occur in or adjacent to the coastal marine area. If the reclamation is considered to be a suitable use of the coastal marine area, there are to be a number of restrictions on the form and design of that reclamation.

Policy 14 requires planning documents to be amended to promote the restoration or rehabilitation of the natural character of the coastal environment.  Restoration could involve rehabilitating dunes and creating or enhancing habitat for indigenous species.  This policy also requires local authorities to impose restoration or rehabilitation conditions on consents and identify areas and opportunities for restoration or rehabilitation.

Policy 16 relates to the protection of certain identified surf breaks.  Policy 18 relates to the protection of the concept of “public open space”.

Policy 20 ‘Vehicle Access’ is important as it requires local authorities to control the use of vehicles on beaches, foreshore and seabed and adjacent public land, where for example, damage to dunes and harm to indigenous flora and fauna may result. Local authorities are to also identify locations where vehicle access is required for activities such as boat launching, and recreational vehicular use.

Under Policy 21 Local authorities must identify and establish provisions to improve degraded water quality.  Where practicable, water quality is to be restored to a state whereby it can support activities such as shellfish gathering (Policy 21).

Local authorities are also required to assess and monitor sedimentation levels and impacts on the coastal environment and reduce sediment loadings in runoff and storm water systems through controls on land use activities (Policy 22).|

Local authorities are to identify areas in the coastal environment that are potentially affected by coastal hazards and are to avoid redevelopment, or change in land use, that would increase the risk of adverse effects from coastal hazards (Policy 25 and 26).

The challenge for the new NZCPS will be how local authorities will “give effect to” the objectives and policies in regional and district planning documents, particularly given the internal conflict that exists in the NZCPS between “use” and “protection”.

The same issue arises for decision makers on matters such as resource consents and designations as development proposals in coastal locations must have regard to the NZCPS.  One will need to take an overall judgment to reconcile the “use” policies in relation to renewable energy, aquaculture and ports with the “protection” policies in relation to indigenous biodiversity, landscape and natural features.  There is also the challenge of reconciling the NZCPS 2010 with other national policy statements and national environmental standards.  The test for the NZCPS 2010 will be the extent to which it has a real impact on the balancing process in RMA decisions on policy statements, plans and resource consents, and the outcomes envisaged by the public are realised.

Campbell Brown has expertise in coastal planning and can assist you with further advice about the NZCPS 2010 and its implications for a particular development proposal or statutory plan.  If you are responsible for a statutory planning document, we can review the existing provisions and recommend modifications that would satisfy the new obligations that are imposed by the NZCPS 2010.