The way your consent application proceeds depends on the scale and significance of the effects of your proposal, whether you have written approval from all the people the council considers will be adversely affected, and the type of consent you are applying for.

Officially, the consent process starts when you lodge an application with a council. But by that stage, you are likely to have a pretty clear view of what you’re wanting consents for.

Prepare, consult and lodge your application

This is the period before you lodge your application with the council, and includes all the information gathering you will do.

  • You start with an idea or project.
  • You may consult with others.
  • You develop your proposal.
  • You prepare and lodge your application.

During this stage you should discuss your proposal with the council and others potentially affected by it. It’s best to have these discussions while you’re still developing your proposal, and before you lodge the application.

Before you apply

There are some things you should check first before you apply for a resource consent.

Check the certificate of title for your property to see if it has any conditions such as consent notices, covenants, rights of way, and easements that may restrict your proposed activity. You can order a copy of the title from Land Information New Zealand. You may need professional help to understand the rights and restrictions.

Check the council plans that will tell you which activities you can do on your land, and any rules about them. Most councils publish their plans online. The Ministry for the Environment’s website can help you: Council plans and where to find them.

On a number of council websites you can do a property search which gives information such as zone, rules and standards relevant to that property.

If you’re thinking about buying land or buildings, it’s worth asking the local city or district council for a land information memorandum (LIM). This report will give you council information about that piece of land, including what the district plan allows the land to be used for.

If you want official confirmation that an activity is allowed, you can ask the council for a certificate of compliance. This can only be issued for a permitted activity.

Councils can also issue an existing use certificate when an activity doesn’t meet a current district or regional plan rule, but was lawfully established before the relevant rule came into force.

Seek professional input

You have now confirmed that you require a resource consent as your project does not fully comply with the RMA, as set out in the local plan.

It is often a good idea to engage a planning consultant. They can advise you on the merits of your activity and, if needed, prepare and lodge your application for you.

You may also need a report from a technical specialist. For example, if you are in a flood zone, you may need an engineer with experience in flooding assessment and design.

Engage with tangata whenua

Engaging early with local tangata whenua (iwi, hapū, whanau) can help you both to understand each other’s views. Participation of tangata whenua in your proposal can result in a better application that builds positively on the knowledge and special relationship they have with the environment.

Consult ‘affected persons’

Once your application is lodged, the council will determine who may be an affected person, and can ask you to get their written approval. Affected persons are people who the council decides are likely to be adversely affected by your proposal.

It is a good idea to get their written approval for your proposal before you lodge your consent application with the council.

Putting your application together

Below is a summary of what you will need for your consent application:

  1. Application form. You can get this from your council. Application forms are usually on their website.
  2. Every application for a resource consent must include:
    1. an assessment of environmental effects – this identifies all the environmental effects, positive and negative, of a proposed activity, and ways to avoid, remedy, and mitigate adverse effects
    2. an assessment against the relevant policies and plans.
    3. See Schedule 4 of the RMA [New Zealand Legislation website] (Information required in application for resource consent) for a detailed list of the information requirements.
  3. Any other information the council has asked for. This is often identified in the council’s plan or on the application forms.
  4. The written approvals from affected people, if you have any.
  5. The resource consent fee, paid when you lodge the application. The fees and charges are on the council’s website.

Is my application confidential?

No. Once you’ve sent your application to the council, it becomes public information. The council might agree to keep some material private if it is commercially sensitive. You will need to identify that material clearly. Otherwise, the council will provide copies of any application to anyone who asks for it.

How the council considers your application

After you lodge your application, the council checks it to see that your information is adequate, and may return an application if this is inadequate. The council may request more information or commission a specialist report. In some cases, the council can also defer the processing (notification or hearing) of an application if it considers that other consents are required.

An applicant can request the council to put its application on hold. Different timeframes will apply depending on the notification status of the application.

The council then considers the scale of effects from your activity, and determines whether the public or affected persons must be notified, or whether the council can make a decision on a non-notified basis.

Decision: Grant or refuse

The council will notify you of their decision on your resource consent. Your council will tell you:

  • the reasons for the council’s decision
  • the conditions on how you may carry out the activity
  • whether you or the council need to monitor the environmental effects of the activity (eg, if your consent lets you take water from a stream, you may have to record how much you take)
  • whether your consent has an expiry date. Some consents last forever, while others have a limited life. If you want to operate for longer, you need to apply for a new consent for the same activity at least six months before the expiry date.

Decisions on controlled activities

For controlled activities, councils must grant these applications, with a few exceptions. Even so, the council usually puts some conditions on the consent. They will also probably check later that what you are doing is in line with your consent. A council officer may visit the site and take some measurements, or require you to monitor the activity.

If you disagree with the council’s decision to refuse your consent, you can formally object to the council or lodge an appeal with the Environment Court. You have to make your objection or appeal in writing within 15 working days of receiving the council’s decision.

Objecting to or appealing the council’s decision

If you do not agree with the decision or the conditions on the consent (for approved consents), you can either make an objection (on certain decisions), or appeal to the Environment Court, depending on the circumstances.

You must write your objection, and lodge it with the council within 15 working days of receiving the council’s decision.

You may be invited to a meeting of councillors and officers, where you can explain your objections. You can request that the objection be heard by an independent commissioner if you wish.

If you requested direct referral of your application to the Environment Court and the council agrees, the Environment Court will make a decision on your application. You can appeal the decision to the High Court, but only on points of law.

Lodging an appeal can be expensive and time consuming, and you might not win. You should seek advice from a lawyer, planning consultant, or someone with resource management experience on whether you are likely to be successful.

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