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Resource Management Act

The purpose of this Act is to promote sustainable management of natural and physical resources. It is the main piece of legislation that sets out how the environment is to be managed.

  • It provides a framework for the management and use of air, land and water, with a focus on sustainable management
  • Under the RMA, everyone has a duty to avoid, remedy, or mitigate any adverse effects their activities may have on the environment
  • The RMA Act is implemented by Regional, Unitary, City and District Councils developing plans to address the matters required by the RMA and granting consents if required by a Plan.

Agrichemicals are included in the RMA framework because they are considered a contaminant under the Act. When they are applied to air, land, or water, they are termed a discharge.

  • Regional Councils have to develop plans which permit or control discharges
  • Most councils have rules for discharges to air, but some also have specific rules for discharges to land or water
  • Rules for applying agrichemicals to, or over, water are generally more stingent than those for discharging to air.

The rules in council plans are organised around activities which are classified according to the level of adverse effect(s) that may result from that activity:

  • Prohibited activities cannot be undertaken and consent cannot be granted.
  • Non-complying activities require consent, the approval of affected parties, and public notification may be required. Consent will have conditions that must be met.
  • Discretionary activities require consent and the approval of affected parties may be required. Consent will have conditions that must be met
  • Controlled activities require consent but cannot be refused. The plan will state the conditions that must be met
  • Permitted activities are able to be undertaken without consent as long as any conditions are met. These conditions are listed in the regional plan.

Applying agrichemicals on your own property is usually a permitted activity, but neighbour notification and property spray plans are often required.

Aerial spraying, applications to public areas and application by contractors are usually subject to greater controls and may be Discretionary or Controlled activities.

Summaries of all regional plans are available in the RMA/Regional plans section of our Resources page.


In their local plans, each Council places slightly different emphasis on various aspects of the legislation in line with their goals. Differences in emphasis can range from the site of your chemical store to the levels of notification and signage you must meet before you spray your crop.

Failure to comply with the conditions of a permitted activity means that if there is an incident (e.g. spray drift causing damage), the Council can take legal action.

Note that Regional plan requirements are not included on the label because they vary by region. So you need to check your region's plan.


The full version of this Act is available online.