In life, we are all expected to bear the consequences of our actions. The RMA is no different. It sets out rights and responsibilities for all New Zealanders.

If you are not authorised to undertake a development that is not permitted by a rule or standard or authorised by a consent, you could face enforcement action, including prosecution. A range of penalties can apply, depending on the offence. Some offences have a maximum fine of $1500. For others, you can be jailed for up to two years or fined up to $300,000 (for individuals) or up to $600,000 (for any parties other than individuals). It doesn’t matter whether you deliberately set out to cause an offence or not.

Councils can also issue instant infringement notices, which are a bit like traffic tickets. You might get one for dumping a car or some other minor offence. These fees can range from $300 up to potentially $2000 for an individual or $4000 for a company or trust.

Councils can also give out abatement notices, which mean people have to stop doing something that is affecting the environment. If you are served with an abatement notice, you can appeal to the Environment Court if you don’t think it’s fair, but this doesn’t mean you can ignore the notice. If you don’t comply with the notice you will be committing an offence and are likely to be prosecuted by the council.

Councils can also issue excessive noise directions. These are often used to get someone to turn down their stereo or stop doing something else that’s keeping the neighbours awake.

Anybody, including the council, can apply to the Environment Court for an enforcement order to get someone to stop doing something that may be affecting the environment. The Environment Court will hold a hearing. Enforcement orders are best suited to ongoing issues rather than urgent problems that need to be fixed quickly. However, the court can issue an interim enforcement order immediately to protect the environment while it considers the full enforcement order. Again, if you don’t comply with an enforcement order, you are committing an offence.

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