Proposed Otago RPS notified – submit by 3 September

Otago Regional Council (ORC) has notified its Proposed Otago Regional Policy Statement (RPS), which covers a wide range of resource management issues in the Otago Region. Key chapters are Urban Form and Development, Infrastructure, Hazards, Freshwater and Mana Whenua involvement.

Submissions on the RPS close 3pm, 3 September 2021.

A full version of the RPS can be found here. The RPS underpins the direction of all development in Otago as District Plans must give effect to it. If you wish to submit on the RPS our Resource Management team can help you with the preparation of submissions.


In 2019 a proposed RPS was notified, its drafting and structure drew considerable criticism with concerns over the effectiveness of its provisions. That same year a review of ORC’s planning functions was commissioned by the Minister for the Environment. The review found two substantial issues:

  • ORC’s freshwater management framework did not give effect to the previous National Policy Statement (NPS) for Freshwater Management.
  • The RPS was non-compliant with newly released National Planning Standards.

The Minister ordered for a review of the RPS to be completed by June 2021 and for a new Land and Water Regional Plan to be notified by 31 December 2023. The review came at a time where central Government introduced a suite of National Policy Statements and Standards which are now or are potentially soon to be operative. These include:

  • A New NPS for Freshwater Management and National Environmental Standards for Freshwater Management in 2020;
  • Regulations for stock exclusion from water bodies;
  • NPS for Urban Development 2020; and
  • Proposed NPS’ for Highly Productive Land and Indigenous Biodiversity

The RPS is required to give effect to all national direction and there have been considerable changes to the requirements for RPS’ resulting in a redraft and revision of the Otago RPS to ensure national direction is given effect. The RPS’s long term vision is informed by the NPS for Freshwater Management 2020’s foundational concept Te Mana o te Wai. Overall, the RPS seeks to provide for the mauri (life force) of all water bodies and acknowledges the interconnectedness of all environmental elements, ki uta ki tai (from Mountains to Sea).

Urban Form and Development:

The Urban Form and Development section of the RPS provides a clear emphasis on avoiding ad-hoc developments and general sprawl.

The RPS seeks to allow for intensification of urban areas but requires that this be guided by strategic planning. The goal is to allow for urban development at the same time as striving to protect and, if possible, enhance the important values and features of Otago. The strategic planning process will also consider how necessary infrastructure will be delivered to facilitate development whilst minimising environmental impact of this infrastructure.

ORC aims to ensure that there is sufficient development capacity to accommodate urban development. A “Significant development capacity” criteria applies to plan changes affecting urban areas and requires:

  • A proposal’s location, design and layout to contribute to a well- functioning urban environment;
  • Well-connected development to existing or planned urban areas;
  • Development in a timely manner without material impact on planned infrastructure; and
  • The proposal to make a significant contribution to meeting forecasted demand for housing and business land shortages.

In addition, the Urban Form and Development section seeks to maintain the character of Otago’s rural areas. The RPS enables primary production and rural industry and restricts the establishment of residential and non-rural activities which could adversely affect the productive capacity of rural land unless there is an operational need for that activity to be located rurally. Rural residential development would be contained to specific Rural residential zones and would avoid areas of highly productive land.


The RPS seeks to provide for the continued operation of existing infrastructure and the development of new infrastructure where adverse effects are managed. The operation and maintenance of existing infrastructure must avoid significant adverse effects on the environment where practicable. The development and upgrading of infrastructure must ensure that functionality is maintained in the event of a natural hazard event.

New infrastructure must avoid as a priority areas of ecological significance such as outstanding natural features and landscapes, natural wetlands and outstanding water bodies. Overall, proposals for infrastructure will have to demonstrate minimal adverse environmental effects and co-ordination with long term land use planning.


The Hazards section seeks to ensure the levels of risk to people, communities and property from natural hazards do not exceed a tolerable level. The RPS requires:

  • The identification of areas where natural hazards may adversely affect communities;
  • The level of natural hazard risk to be assessed by the local authority;
  • An activity be undertaken in a manner that results in the natural hazard risk being tolerable; and
  • Where a natural hazard risk cannot be reduced to a tolerable level, the activity must be avoided.

The levels of risk are proposed to be split into three categories; ‘Acceptable’, ‘Tolerable’ and ‘Significant’. An assessment as to the level of risk is proposed to be made based on the likelihood of a natural hazard event occurring and the severity of consequences. A risk will be Significant if the event is ‘Possible’ with ‘Catastrophic’ consequences or an event is ‘Almost certain’ with ‘Major’ consequences. The severity of impact ranges from ‘Insignificant’ (No buildings affected) to ‘Catastrophic’ (Upward of 50% of buildings affected).

Tolerability of risk will vary based on whether there are already existing settlements in the area. Where settlements are established the tolerability of risk will be higher.


ORC is required to notify a Land and Water Plan by 31 December 2023, therefore the Policies and values outlined in the RPS will be the basis for that Plan. ORC is required by the NPS for Freshwater Management 2020 to provide a framework that gives effect to Te Mana o te Wai, implementing an integrated approach, ki uta ki tai. The RPS therefore sets out a hierarchy of priority in which freshwater must be managed:

  • The health of water bodies and freshwater is to be protected and restored where it is degraded;
  • The health and well-being needs of people; and
  • The ability of people to provide for their social, economic and cultural well-being.

The RPS identifies five Freshwater Management Units (FMU), which includes all freshwater bodies in the region. The policies require reducing discharges to water from the use and development of land and managing land uses that are unsupportive of environmental outcomes for fresh water as identified by each FMU.

The RPS directs that all ‘natural wetlands’ must be protected or restored so that there is no further decrease of these indigenous ecosystems. It does so by requiring:

  • Improvement where natural wetlands have been degraded or lost;
  • That a reduction in the values/extent of a natural wetland can only occur if an activity is necessary for the provision of infrastructure; and
  • That adverse effects on the values of ‘outstanding water bodies’ are to be avoided, with ‘outstanding water bodies’ to be identified in regional and district plans.

Mana whenua, tikanga and matauranga Māori (indigenous knowledge) are given a considerable role in the identification of values, monitoring and management of freshwater in partnership with ORC and local councils.

Mana whenua:

The Policies in this Chapter are designed with the purpose of ensuring that the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi are given effect through:

  • Amending Regional and District Plans to take Iwi Management Plans into account;
  • Early Kāi Tahu Involvement throughout resource management processes and decisions; and
  • Establishing effective consultation processes for applicants and Kāi Tahu.

A more active role for mana whenua and matauranga Māori in all aspects of Otago’s environmental management is proposed. The PORPS confers on developers more transparent, stringent standards for Iwi consultation and involvement.

Next steps

Submissions close 3pm, 3 September 2021. For any questions on the contents of the RPS or if you would like to make a submission, get in contact with our Resource Management Team.

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