The Proposed Canterbury Regional Policy Statement

Submissions close on 15 August 2011

Environment Canterbury (ECan) is reviewing the Regional Policy Statement (RPS), which came into force in 1998. The review is comprehensive, involving all aspects of the RPS. The review has reached the stage where ECan has notified the Proposed Regional Policy Statement (Proposed RPS) for public submissions. Once operative this will replace the existing RPS.

In this article we discuss the Proposed RPS, what it seeks to achieve and the opportunities for involvement in the review.

What is the Regional Policy Statement?

The RPS is an important planning document, which provides for management of natural and physical resources through urban rural and coastal areas of the Canterbury region. Once operational it will provide the blueprint for planning in Canterbury. Under the planning document hierarchy established by the RMA, regional policy statements sit above district and regional plans, meaning that the latter must give effect to the provisions of the former.

It is easy to lose sight of the Proposed RPS in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes. However, the Proposed RPS addresses many important issues, including some related to earthquake recovery, such as development near faults and historic heritage.

Each chapter of the Proposed RPS addresses a different issue, as set out below:


• Land use and infrastructure

• Historic heritage

• Development of Greater Christchurch

• Air quality

• Freshwater

• Soils

• The coastal environment

• Energy

• Beds of rivers and lakes and their riparian zones     

• Contaminated land

• Natural hazards

• Hazardous substances

• Landscape

• Waste minimisation and management


The full text of the Proposed RPS and each individual chapter can be downloaded from here

Key changes

Key changes included in the Proposed RPS include provisions relating to the incorporation of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy (CWMS), subdivision and development near earthquake faults and heritage. Other changes amend existing provisions of the RPS.

Giving effect to the Canterbury Water Management Strategy

The CWMS was developed to foster a collaborative approach to managing water in Canterbury. This recognised the many and often competing values and uses of fresh water. The CWMS has three components:

  1. Outcomes, being a vision, principles, and targets for water management;

  2. Delivery mechanisms to achieve those targets, for example water harvest and storage schemes and biodiversity protection and enhancement programmes; and

  3. A governance structure for delivering the CWMS, using zone and regional committees.

The Proposed RPS incorporates several elements of the CWMS. This including identifying matters which may be addressed by the zone or regional committees. It also provides for these committees to identify matters they would like to be included in a plan prepared under the RMA. Any such request will be considered by ECan.

New provisions regarding development near earthquake faults

The Proposed RPS contains new policies relating to development near faults. Proposed policy 11.3. provides that new subdivision, use and development of land on or close to an active earthquake fault trace, or in areas susceptible to liquefaction and lateral spreading, shall be managed in order to avoid or mitigate the adverse effects of fault rupture, liquefaction and lateral spreading. In order to achieve this ECan will:

  • Assist the city and district councils to map "fault avoidance zones” and areas susceptible to liquefaction and lateral spreading.

  • Make available any information it holds about natural hazards.

The city council and district councils will be required to:

  • Set out objectives and policies in district plans to manage new subdivisions and the use and development of land in areas on or adjacent to an active earthquake fault trace and in areas susceptible to liquefaction and lateral spreading.

  • Ensure that earthquake fault rupture, liquefaction and lateral spreading hazards are assessed before any new areas are zoned for intensified development.


In the RPS, historic heritage was included with the chapters on landscape and ecology. The Proposed RPS includes a separate chapter on historic heritage with detailed provisions that seek to recognise and protect historic heritage. This is achieved through criteria for the identification of significant heritage sites and a firm policy direction to protect those significant sites. A key focus is the requirement for consultation with tangata whenua and the Historic Places Trust.

Other changes

The other chapters in the Proposed RPS addresses a wide range of environmental issues including the coast, landscape, historic heritage, contaminated land and hazardous substances. Each of these chapters sets out what ECan and the district and city councils in Canterbury will and should do to address these management issues. A detailed review of these changes is beyond the scope of this article. However, if the matters are of interest to you we suggest you carefully review the document or contact us.


Submissions close on 15 August 2011. ECan are likely to hold hearings on submissions early next year. The decisions that ECan makes on submissions can be appealed to the Environment Court. It is unlikely the Proposed RPS will be operative before 2013. If you wish to have a say on any of the issues contained in the Proposed RPS you should lodge a submission with ECan. You submission should identify the relevant issue, express your views on that and indicate how you consider the Proposed RPS should be amended to address the concerns that you raise.

Key message – how does this affect you?

The RPS is the dominant RMA planning document in Canterbury. ECan has undertaken a comprehensive review and released the Proposed RPS for submissions. Once operative it will influence the content and direction of regional and district plans for the next 10 years or more.

Key changes relate to the CWMS, development around earthquake faults and management of historic heritage. There are changes to many other provisions. If you are affected by any of these matters and wish to have your say then you should lodge a submission.

Disclaimer: This is a brief summary for information purposes only and is not legal advice.

Posted on Friday 5th August, 2011 at 01:59 pm