There are three ways in which applications can be processed; non-notified, publicly notified or limited notified. The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) provides specific guidance on whether or not an application should be notified. Briefly, this requires Council to determine within 10 days of receiving the application whether the adverse effects on the environment will be ‘less than minor’, ‘minor’ or ‘more than minor’.
Most resource consent applications are non-notified because the adverse effects which may result from the proposal are ‘less than minor’ or where the effects are ‘minor’ or ‘more than minor’ any affected persons (usually neighbours) have agreed to the proposal in writing.
A non-notified application is processed in 20 working days and the decision is delegated to Council staff. In some instances, a Council Hearings Panel or Commissioner may make a decision on a non-notified application where there is a perceived conflict, or where the Council’s internal delegations policy requires it for certain types of application (such as for esplanade reserves).
A publicly-notified application is usually one where the adverse environmental effects have been assessed by Council as being ‘more than minor’. In some cases there could be special circumstances which require notification (such as wide public interest in the outcome of a proposal), or where it is impossible to identify all of those whom might be affected by the application.
A publicly-notified application is advertised in local newspapers and letters are sent to the affected neighbours. This then allows for 20 days to lodge a submission in support or opposition to the application, should anyone wish to. Any member of the public may make a submission on the application. The submission must outline the reasons for their support or opposition of the proposal and identify whether they wish to speak at a hearing.
A hearing is held after the submissions are closed and after the Council has prepared a report to recommend whether the application be approved or declined. The hearing is in front of a hearings panel made up of elected Councillors and/or an Independent Commissioner. The Council staff, applicant and submitters are able to present their views to the hearing panel, who will make a recommendation to the Council whether or not the consent is granted.
Given the process required, publicly-notified applications take significantly longer to process (70 working days) and are more expensive than non-notified applications. The cost of the hearing must be paid for by the applicant.
Dependent on the outcome, the decision of the hearing panel is able to be appealed by either the applicant or the submitters to the Environment Court.
A limited notified application has the same submission, hearing and decision process as a publically notified application, but it is not advertised in the newspapers. Only those people identified by Council as ‘potentially affected’ are able to make a submission. A letter is sent to those people identified by Council who have not already provided written approval to inform them that they are able to make a submission. If they do and a hearing needs to be held, then the process continues as described in connection with a publically notified application.
As an alternative to having a publicly-notified or limited-notified application considered by the Council, an Applicant may request that an application be directly referred to the Environment Court for consideration. This bypasses the Council decision making process for applications where there might be a high likelihood of a Council decision being appealed to the Environment Court. Council, however, is not obligated to agree to a request for direct referral of an application to the Environment Court. Again, the costs of the application would be required to be met by the applicant.
The team at Eliot Sinclair have extensive knowledge of the Resource Management Act and can provide advice to guide your project through the resource consent process, or alternatively help you make a submission.