The purpose of the Resource Management Act 1991 is to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources. In particular, section 5(2)(a) includes:
sustaining the potential of natural and physical resources (excluding minerals) to meet the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations.
That section makes it clear that councils are obliged to consider and make provisions for the needs of future generations through their Regional Policy Statements and Regional and District Plans.
In early 2017, Fish and Game New Zealand asked us to carry out a high-level review of all of New Zealand’s Regional Policy Statements to identify where there is explicit inclusion of the term ‘future generations’. The purpose of this project was to provide a starting point for looking at the extent to which regional councils have considered the needs of future generations in their policy statements.
We collected a lot of data, analysed it, and concluded that Regional Councils overall are giving only very limited explicit consideration of future generations within their Regional Policy Statements.
This research may demonstrate the need for future generations to be taken more seriously in policy development and subsequent resource management decision making.