When a project is referred to an expert consenting panel it is eligible to access the alternative consenting pathway the ACt provides. An applicant may lodge applications for resource consents and notices of requirements needed for their project with the Environmental Protection Authority for consideration by an expert consenting panel.
The expert consenting panel will then consider the consent applications and notices of requirement against the purpose of the Act and Part 2 of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA), and make a decision to grant the consents or designations with conditions or decline the applications.
If an expert consenting panel decides to grant a consent, the relevant regional and district councils are responsible for issuing the consents and carrying out the compliance, monitoring and enforcement activities.
A panel may decline to grant a resource consent or notice of requirement if it thinks the project is inconsistent with the purpose of the Act or Part 2 of the RMA. A panel may also decline to grant a resource consent of notice of requirement if it is inconsistent with a Treaty settlement.
About expert consenting panels
An expert consenting panel is a decision-making body convened to make a decision on resource consent applications or notices of requirement. The expert consenting panels are appointed by the panel convenor, Judge Laurie J Newhook.
An expert consenting panel generally consists of up to four people. It is chaired by a current or retired Environment Court judge or senior environmental lawyer. It must also include a representative nominated by the relevant iwi authorities and a representative nominated by the local authorities. The panel convenor has the discretion to appoint additional people to a panel if required.
Role of the Environmental Protection Authority
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) provides advice and administrative support to the panel convener and expert consenting panels. It does not regulate the panels’ decision-making procedures as this is up to the panels themselves. The EPA does not have the ability to suspend or delay the lodgement or processing of an application except when recoverable costs are not paid.
People and organisations that may be invited to participate in the process
There is no requirement for public or limited notification of applications for resource consents or notices of requirement lodged with the EPA under the Act. However, a panel appointed to consider the applications must, before making a decision, invite comments from people and organisations listed in the Act.
These people and groups include:
- specific Ministers
- relevant iwi authorities
- relevant Treaty of Waitangi settlement entities
- the relevant unitary or regional and district (or city) councils
- government departments (Department of Conservation, Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga)
- adjacent landowners and occupiers
- specific industry and advocacy groups such as the Environmental Defence Society, Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society, and Business New Zealand Incorporated.
The Minister for the Environment may also direct a panel to invite comments from specific people and groups before making their decision on an application. These people and groups are named in the referral orders.
A panel may invite comments from any other person it considers appropriate.