You might have heard of the requirement to get a resource consent under the RMA. This means that 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. When you apply for a resource consent you must give the council an assessment of the environment effects your project may have.
If you are thinking about buying some land or a business, building, or subdividing land you might need to get a resource consent so it's a good idea to talk to your local city or district council first. Council staff can help you look through the relevant plans and work out whether you'll need a resource consent. If you do, then the council should also explain how to go about talking with people who might be affected by your project and preparing an assessment of environmental effects. They might also tell you to visit the Regional Council.
The council can process your consent with or without the general public being involved. Proposals that might have an effect on the environment that is "more than minor", or may adversely affect someone who hasn't given their approval are publicly notified. In reality, most resource consent applications are not publicly notified. Council staff will tell you whether or not your application will be publicly notified. Anyone can make a submission on applications that have been publicly notified and a public hearing is usually held to give applicants and submitters a chance to speak. Informal pre-hearing meetings may also be held. If you need consents from both a District or City and Regional Council the two Councils will probably decide to hear the applications together.
Councils are expected to process non-notified consent applications in less than a month and publicly notified applications in about three and a half months.
You can help to make sure your consent application is processed quickly if you:
- Talk to the Council staff early on about what you want to do
- Talk to people who you or the Council thinks might be affected by your proposal
- Give the Council a well prepared assessment of the environmental effects
- Respond quickly to requests for further information
Councils can decide to either grant or decline a resource consent. Usually when the council grant consents they also put some conditions on it. The council will also probably check that what you are doing is in line with your resource consent. This could mean that a council officer will visit the site, take some measurements or require you to monitor the activity. Councils also decide how long to grant resource consent for. Some consents (like subdivision) last forever, while others might only last a couple of years (for example a permit to take water from a river).
Councils will normally charge you an administration fee for considering your application, and they may also charge for monitoring.
If you're thinking about buying land or buildings it's worth asking the local city or district council for a Land Information Memorandum. This report will tell you what information the council has about that piece of land, including what the land can be used for under the district plan rules. If you want to check that an activity is okay under the council's plan you can ask the council for a certificate of compliance.
If you're doing something that requires a building consent, before your start building you can get a Project Information Memorandum which will also tell you if you need to apply for a resource consent.
Sonya and Malcolm want to build a home for themselves and a three storey bed and breakfast in a bay surrounded by native bush, which includes a row of Pohutukawa trees along the beach. The only access to the bay is by private gravel driveway. The district plan says that land they want to build on has "high conservation values"
The Plan also says that while a one-storey building is okay, a three storey B&B is not. This is because it will affect the visual amenity of the landscape.
Sonya and Malcolm talk to the district council and find out that they'll need resource consent to building the B&B. The Council says they'll need to fill out an application form and complete an assessment of environmental effects to support their application. The assessment they give the council includes detailed plans of the development and shows how the buildings will be designed.
The district council publicly notifies the resource consent application and gets 20 submissions from a range of people worried about how the buildings will affect the landscape.
The district council holds a pre-hearing meeting. Sonya, Malcolm, their architect and the submitters all turn up. The submitters say they'd be happy if Sonya, Malcolm and the council guarantee that the B&B wouldn't be too visible from the other side of the Bay and that the plans include landscaping to hide the buildings from view. The meeting goes well and everybody agrees that a formal hearing won't be necessary.
The council grants consent, but adds a few conditions to it:
- Sonya and Malcolm need to make sure that the buildings are designed, located and painted in accordance with the design plans.
- Some extra planting and landscaping is carried out and the pohutukawa trees are not harmed in any way.
So while Sonya and Malcolm had to go back to the drawing board to change things a little everyone is happy that their concerns have been addressed and Sonya and Malcolm still get their house and bed and breakfast.
Sometimes things don't work out quite like this. For example, some submitters might decide to appeal the council's decision to grant resource consent. This would mean Sonya and Malcolm and the council would also have to go to the Environment Court to defend the decision made by the council.
Did you Know
About 48,000 resource consents are processed every year. On average only one percent of all decisions made on resource consent applications are appealed to the Environment Court.
On average five percent of all resource consent applications are publicly notified.
You might need a resource consent to carry out an activity, so talk to the council before you begin your project.
Resource consents can be processed by the council with or without public notification.