You might have heard of the requirement to get a resource consent under the RMA. This applies when you want to do something that your district plan doesn’t allow as of right. Or, in the case of a regional plan, the plan will tell you when you need to get a resource consent.
This could be the case if you’re thinking about buying some land, a business or a building, or you want to subdivide land – so it’s a good idea to talk to your local city or district council first. Council staff can help you look through the plans and work out whether you’ll need a consent.
Resource consents are obtained from regional, district and city councils. When carrying out this function, councils are known as consent authorities. In some cases, a board of inquiry or the Environment Court may also authorise a resource consent.
The table below lists the types of consents, the authorities that issue them and examples of activities.
The council can process your application in one of three ways, depending on what the RMA, national environmental standard, or relevant plan says and the kind of activity you’re proposing. Your council will tell you whether or not your application will be limited or publicly notified.
- Non-notified. The council may decide the general public need not be involved. In fact, most resource consent applications fall into this category, which means there is no submission or hearings process.
- Publicly notified. In this category, the council may decide that a proposal will, or is likely to, have an effect on the environment that is ‘more than minor’, or there are special circumstances which mean the public need to be notified and have the opportunity to provide a submission.
- Limited notification. The council notifies only those people who it considers might be affected by your proposal.
Publicly notified applications
Anyone can make a submission on applications that have been publicly notified. The only exception is if you’re a trade competitor to someone else’s business and you want to oppose their application only for trade or business reasons. A public hearing is usually held to give applicants and submitters a chance to speak, and there may also be informal pre‑hearing meetings.
Councils can decide to either grant or decline a consent application.
Some proposals are for controlled activities, which means that applications to do these activities must be granted, with a few exceptions. Even so, when granting consent, the council usually puts some conditions on it.
It will also probably check later that what you are doing is in line with your resource consent. This could mean a council officer will visit the site and assess compliance with consent conditions, or require you to monitor the activity.
Duration of consent
Councils also decide how long to grant resource consent for. Some consents (like subdivision) last forever, while others might last only for a couple of years (for example, a permit to discharge a contaminant into air or water).
You can give or refuse your approval for projects that could affect you directly
The resource consent applicant might approach a person for written approval for something they want to do.
If the person gives their written approval, the council will not consider any effects on that person when assessing the resource consent application. If a written approval is not obtained, the council might notify the application if it considers the effects on the person are at least minor. This means it will inform the person and give them an opportunity to make a submission to the council.
You can make a submission on limited notified applications
If the effects of a proposed activity on the environment generally are not more than minor, the council might decide to notify the application only to people it considers are affected. This is called limited notification. Anyone who has already given written approval is not considered affected – and is not notified.
Those directly notified by the council can make a submission on the consent application. The council will consider all the submissions it receives, together with the application, and decide whether or not to grant the resource consent. If everyone affected has given their approval, the application will generally not be notified.
You can make a submission on publicly notified applications
Sometimes a council will notify the public about a resource consent application. When this happens, generally anybody can make a submission. The council will consider all the submissions it receives, together with the application, and decide whether or not to grant the consent.
To publicly notify an application, the council puts a notice on its website and a summary of this in the newspaper, with the web address for more information. The notice should stay on the website while submissions are able to be made. If you want to make a submission, you should give the council an email or other electronic address for future correspondence.
If you make a submission on a plan under the standard planning process, have applied for a resource consent or submitted on an application, but you don’t like the council’s decision, you can ask the Environment Court to overturn it.
The Environment Court is made up of judges and commissioners who review the case. It will consider the council decision and the positions of all parties who appear before it. You should get legal advice before you file an appeal, because the court process can be expensive and time consuming for everybody. In some cases, you may need to prove you have enough money to pay for the applicant’s legal fees, in case you lose the appeal and the Environment Court decides you were not justified in lodging it.
However, in many cases you may be able to sort out your case in mediation, so you wouldn’t have to go to court.
Only applicants or people who made a submission on a plan or resource consent application can appeal a council decision (with some restrictions on appeals by trade competitors). But you might still be able to have your say in court. Even if you don’t file an appeal, and someone else does, you could get involved by joining the appeal and appearing in court:
- as someone who made a submission, or
- as someone who has an interest greater than the general public.
How can you have a say?
- Give your written approval to a project happening close to you.
- Make a submission on a plan or resource consent application.
- Appeal a council decision to the Environment Court.
When you need a resource consent
© Ministry for the Environment