When you are seeking a resource consent, consultation is the process of communicating with people or groups who may be interested in or affected by your proposal. Consulting others early can help you reach agreement that could avoid or ease opposition later in the process. This section sets out the principles of consultation.
The council will help you identify what types of consent are required (if any), what environmental issues might need to be addressed, and what information is required to support your application. You might consider getting advice from planning consultants, engineers, landscape architects, and archaeologists, if the scale and significance of your proposal warrants it.
Consultation may not be just a pre-application exercise – it can help throughout the consent process, and form the basis for long term relationships with your neighbours and the community.
Although the RMA does not require applicants to consult with anyone, it’s a good idea to consult those you or the council think could be affected by your proposal. In some cases, the council may advise who could be adversely affected. The final decision on who is adversely affected, however, won’t be made until after you lodge the application.
Remember to be upfront about your intentions when contacting any potentially affected person about your application.
If you ask the council early on, you may be able to include any written approvals that you get from potentially affected persons, at the time you lodge your application. This can save time, and may mean the council can process your application on a non-notified basis – no submission or hearing processes).
Public participation is one of the key principles underlying the RMA. We are affected every day by the actions and activities of our neighbours, and by those who use the same resources as us. Therefore, we should talk with others about any plans to change our activities or resource use, and what the implications might be.
The RMA does not require you, as an applicant, to consult anyone about your application for resource consent, but sometimes there’s a duty under another Act to consult. We must comply with these duties.
The RMA does require people applying for resource consent to submit a record of any consultation and the responses. This can give decision-makers the information they need to make well-founded decisions.
Of course, consultation can also help the applicant – see Benefits of consultation.
You are not obliged to consult or get written approvals from affected parties before you apply, but it will usually allow the council to process your consent in a more straightforward way. Discuss these potential benefits with the council while you’re preparing your application.
Case law under the RMA provides a number of principles that help define good consultation:
- Early – consult as soon as possible, when your proposal is less ‘set in concrete’. You will have more flexibility to address issues raised by those interested and affected.
- Transparent – be open about what you want to achieve, what scope you may have to change parts of your proposal, and why there might be elements that you may not be able to change.
- Open mind – keep your views open to people’s responses and to the possible benefits of consultation.
- Two-way process – consultation is intended as a reciprocal exchange of information. It requires both you and those consulted to put forward their views, and to listen to and consider other perspectives.
- Ongoing – it may be that communication about your project will continue after you have lodged your application, or even after a decision has been made.
- Agreement not necessary – consultation does not mean that all parties have to agree to a proposal, although it is expected that they will make a genuine effort. While you may not reach agreement on all issues, points of difference will become clearer or more specific.
What is consultation?
© Ministry for the Environment