The RMA allows for ‘requiring authorities’ (such as a council, Minister or network utility operator) to notify the council that an area of land is to be designated for a public work (such as a road or telecommunications facility, school or prison).

The area is identified in the local council’s district plan, and known as a ‘designation’.

Designations allow the requiring authority’s works or project to go ahead on the site or route, without needing a land-use consent from the council, or complying with any rules in the district plan.

If the designation is approved by the requiring authority, the area will be designated in the district plan. This often includes agreement on how works are carried out.

What are requiring authorities?

All Ministers of the Crown and local authorities are requiring authorities, meaning they can designate land in a district plan for a particular project or work.

The Minister for the Environment can also approve certain persons, businesses or organisations that are responsible for network utilities (such as roads, electricity and telecommunication facilities, or pipelines to distribute gas or water) or certain types of infrastructure (such as airports), as requiring authorities. The Minister’s approval for this status may relate to general functions, or may be for a particular project. The requiring authority has to have financial responsibility for a particular project, work or operation on the designated land.

Examples of current requiring authorities are the Minister of Education (for schools), and the New Zealand Transport Agency (for state highways, cycle ways, and shared paths).

Requiring authorities can notify the district council, under the RMA, for areas of land to be designated in district plans. This will allow them to develop and operate activities, regardless of any district plan rules or resource consent requirements. Resource consents may still be required from a regional council or unitary council for regional rules, but not a territorial authority (city or district council).

What is a notice of requirement?

  • A notice of requirement is a notice to ‘designate’ an area of land for a particular purpose. The notice is lodged by a requiring authority, and it outlines the scope or purpose of the designation.
  • This is a similar process to applying for a resource consent, except that in most cases the council makes a recommendation, and the decision is made by the requiring authority. When the council is also the requiring authority, it simply makes a decision to confirm, cancel or modify the requirement.
  • The exception is when the decision is made by a board of inquiry or Environment Court. See Nationally significant proposals.

The actual physical works cannot start until the approval is granted for the notice, and where required, the outline plan. However, from the time the council receives or issues the notice, restrictions apply to any other uses of the land.

This means if the notice is over land you own, you would not be able to do anything that would prevent or hinder the works proposed in the notice without the written approval of the requiring authority.

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