Skip to main content

Landscapes (including seascapes), natural character and amenity

Landscapes banner Image credit: Chris Williams

How do ‘Landscapes (including seascapes), natural character and amenity' fit into the RPS?

PirongiaWe value our landscapes and seascapes for many reasons. They offer a sense of place and identity and provide opportunities to recharge away from urban environments. They also contribute to our regional economy by attracting tourism. Therefore, we need to ensure that our land and seascapes, natural character and amenity are not overlooked or undervalued and therefore possibly lost or degraded.

There are a variety of pressures on the region’s landscapes, natural character and amenity. For example, Thames-Coromandel District’s permanent population is expected to increase by 20% between 2000 and 2021, with some towns growing even more rapidly. Whitianga’s population is expected to increase 79% and Pauanui’s by 45%. Much of the Waikato River banks near Hamilton and particularly north of the city have been subdivided and built on. Many parts of the region are also being rapidly subdivided for rural residential development, markedly changing the character of some rural areas. 

The Resource Management Act (RMA) identifies the protection of outstanding natural features and landscapes; preserving the natural character of the coastal environment, wetlands, lakes, rivers and their margins; and maintaining and enhancing public access to and along the coastal marine area, lakes and rivers as matters of national importance. The maintenance and enhancement of amenity values must also be given particular regard under the RMA.

The RPS focuses on working in partnership with territorial authorities to provide a consistent approach to landscape management across the region and to reinforce and support the approach of territorial authorities to landscape management.

Key messages

Protecting outstanding natural features and landscapes: It is important to identify the values and characteristics of outstanding natural features and landscapes (including seascapes) and make sure they are protected from inappropriate subdivision, use or development. The RPS identifies 12 regionally outstanding landscapes, and relies on territorial authorities to undertake district wide assessments. For consistency, an approach to identification of landscapes is included in the RPS, with the intention it be used for future assessments. 

12 outstanding natural features and landscapes of regional significance:

  • Tongariro National Park, Lake Rotoaira, Mt Pihanga, & Kakaramea-Tihia Massif
  • Kaimanawa Mountains
  • Northern Herangi Range
  • Mount Karioi
  • Coromandel Range and Moehau Range 
  • Mount Maungatautari. Mount Pirongia
  • Kaimai Range (north of Ngatamahinerua)
  • Lake Taupo
  • Coastal areas of Coromandel – Cathedral Cove, Shakespeare Cliff and coastline south of Hahei
  • Coastal areas of Coromandel – northern tip of the Coromandel peninsula and western slopes of Moehau Range out to coast
  • Coastal areas of Coromandel –Tuateawa
  • Waiotapu Geothermal Area & Lake Ngakoro
  • Horohoro Escarpment
  • Opoutere Beach. 

Preserving natural character: The RPS focuses on ensuring that activities in the coastal environment, wetlands, lakes, rivers and their margins are appropriate in relation to the level of natural character. Activities must consider their impacts on natural character and avoid damaging pristine and outstanding areas. Natural character should be enhanced or restored where possible. This will be given effect to largely through mapping and rules in regional and district plans, and through enhancement opportunities when undertaking policy and strategy development work and undertaking works and services. The RPS includes criteria to guide plans in identifying areas of high and outstanding natural character in the coastal environment. 

Public Access: Maintaining and enhancing public access to water bodies and their margins assists our communities in enjoying public spaces. Public access will be enhanced through regional and district plans and other approaches such as direct negotiation or purchase. Public access will only be restricted in certain areas where necessary, such as limiting the use of vehicles in sensitive areas of the coastal environment in order to protect the stability of dunes and the flora and fauna that live there.

Amenity: Some areas are particularly valued by communities for their amenity. The RPS requires areas of amenity value to be identified, and the values of amenity areas to be maintained and enhanced. This is to largely be achieved through regional and district plans recognising the value of amenity areas and managing subdivision, use and development in these areas. It will also be achieved through enhancement of public amenity values when undertaking works and services, and reviewing strategies and plans. New structures will be appropriately designed to enhance existing amenity values and public access to public areas.

Taupo Waiotapu tongariro 

Key contact

Graeme Silver, Senior Policy Advisor for Science and Strategy (Policy).


“Landscapes, seascapes, and natural character are matters of national importance under the RMA. There’s very little of it that hasn’t been modified to some degree so the best bits are rare and precious. By law we are required to protect outstanding natural features, natural landscapes and natural character from all adverse effects. As well as preserving the very best, we are required to protect the rest and prevent further loss of natural values. The Regional Policy Statement provides guidance to our regional plan and the district plans on how to do this.The challenge for us is to manage how we live, work and play here while preserving the values that make it such a special place.” Graeme Silver, Senior Policy Advisor for Science and Strategy. (Policy)