The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) provides a new statutory framework for environmental planning in New Zealand. This Act replaces a plethora of environmental planning and management statutes including the town and country planning legislation. The new Act signals a paradigmatic shift in planning ideology, and perhaps practice. The change is from a 'town and country' mode, which was embedded in the wider political economy of the welfare state, to a new biophysical and technocentric planning ethos. This paradigmatic shift is seen as worrying in that it may signal a dilution of social and economic equity considerations which, in our opinion, should be concerns for planning. The analysis of the paper has three parts. The first is a description of the system of urban planning which prevailed in New Zealand until the enactment of the RMA in 1991. The second section is a review of the sociopolitical changes which shaped the new legislation. The third part of the discussion is an overview of the new Act and an analysis of two of its key aspects: the influence of New Right ideology in the legislation; and the approach to sustainable development.