Grace E, France-Hudson B, Kilvington M. 2019. Reducing risk through the management of existing uses: Tensions under the RMA. Lower Hutt (NZ): GNS Science. 10 p. (GNS Science Report 2019/55).
Many communities in Aotearoa New Zealand face risks from natural hazards that are either increasing due to climate change or where new knowledge has revealed the hazard has greater probability, magnitude, or likely impact. There are also situations where the potential consequences of a hazardous event are increasing due to where people are choosing to live and intensification of development. The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) provides for the management of natural hazards through land use planning, however there are few examples of local authorities using the RMA to reduce risk to existing developments by modifying existing uses. Our research involved: interviews with RMA practitioners; analysing the governance and planning system under the RMA; and applying legal analysis to better understand the tensions between managing existing uses and reducing risk to existing developments. Our overall conclusion is that it is possible to use the RMA to implement a policy to reduce natural hazard risk in most circumstances. However, there is considerable uncertainty around the ability of local authorities to extinguish existing uses and achieve complete risk reduction. Our recommendations fall into three categories: improving practice and implementation; legislative change; and further research.