Matters of national significance

The Minister may ‘call in’ a matter

Bay of Islands Bottlenose Dolphin

The Minister for the Environment may ‘call in’ the decision making process for resource consents, plans (including changes and variations), and notices of requirement for designations or heritage orders which relate to a ‘proposal of national significance’. The Minister may not ‘call in’ the decision making process for regional policy statements.

Where the matter only affects the coastal marine area the intervention powers are exercised by the Minister of Conservation. Where the matter partly affects the coastal marine area the powers are exercised jointly by the Minister for the Environment and the Minister of Conservation. 1035

When deciding whether or not a matter is or is part of a matter of national significance, the Minister may have regard to any relevant factor, including any advice provided by the EPA and whether the matter: 1036

  • Has aroused widespread public concern or interest regarding its actual or likely environmental effects
  • Involves or is likely to involve the significant use of natural and physical resources
  • Affects or is likely to affect a structure, feature, place or area of national significance
  • Affects or is relevant to New Zealand's international obligations to the global environment
  • Contributes to significant or irreversible changes to the environment
  • Involves technology, processes or methods which are new to New Zealand and that may affect its environment
  • Is significant in terms of the Treaty of Waitangi
  • Will assist the Crown in fulfilling its public health, welfare, security or safety obligations or functions
  • Affects or is likely to affect more than one region or district
  • Relates to a network utility operation that extends or is proposed to extend to more than one district or region

There are three ways in which a matter may come before the Minister:

  1. The Minister may, at his or her initiative, make a direction on a matter that has been lodged with the council 1037
  2. The local authority or the applicant may request that the Minister make a direction on a matter after it has been lodged with the council 1038
  3. The applicant may lodge the application directly with the EPA

The Minister can intervene in a matter by making a submission on the matter for the Crown, appointing a project co-ordinator for the matter to advise the local authority, directing local authorities to hold a joint hearing, or appointing an additional commissioner. When deciding whether to take any of the above actions the Minister must consider the extent to which the matter is a proposal of national significance. 1039  The Minister can also call in a proposal of national significance which results in the decision making process being referred to a Board of Inquiry or the Environment Court. 1040

When deciding whether or not to intervene the Minister must have regard to: 1041

  • The views of the applicant and local authority
  • Whether the relevant local authority has the capacity to process the matter
  • The recommendations of the EPA

If the Minister decides not to refer a matter to a board of inquiry or the Environment Court the matter will be processed by the local authority that would ordinarily have been responsible for dealing with it.

What happens when a matter is called in?

In the case of a request for a private plan change where the proposed plan change has not yet been prepared the local authority must continue to prepare the proposed plan or change in consultation with the applicant. 1042

The local authority must provide the EPA with the matter, all information received by the local authority in relation to the matter, including any submissions. 1043  The local authority must also give notice to the EPA of any rules in a proposed plan or change that will have legal effect from the date of notification.

The EPA must serve a copy of the Minister’s direction on the applicant, the local authority, 1044  each owner and occupier of any land to which the matter related, each owner and occupier of any adjoining land, and if applicable, ever person who made a submission on the matter to the local authority. In most circumstances, the EPA must also give public notice of the Minister's decision to call-in the matter. The notice must:

  • State the reasons for calling the matter in
  • Describe the matter to which the direction applies
  • Describe where information can be viewed
  • In the case of a proposed plan or change, state the rules (if any) that have legal effect from notification
  • Call for submissions which are to be lodged with the EPA (instead of the consent authority) by a certain date.

Any person may make a submission to the EPA about a matter that has been called in and for which the Minister's decision has been publicly notified. There are some exceptions for trade competitors. The submission must be in the prescribed form and state whether it supports or opposes the application, or is neutral. It must be served on the EPA within 20 working days of public notification and a copy of the submission must be served on the applicant as soon as practicable after service on the EPA. 1045

If the called-in matter is a proposed plan, plan change or variation, the EPA must produce a summary of all submissions and give public notice of where this can be inspected. Further submissions may be made in support or opposition of the submissions by any person representing a relevant aspect of the public interest, a person with an interest greater than the public in general, or the local authority. A further submission must be in the prescribed form and support or oppose a submission. All further submissions must be made within 10 working days after public notice of the summary is given and must be served on the applicant and the relevant submitter no later than 5 working days after the day on which the person provides the EPA with the further submission. 1046

The EPA must commission the local authority to prepare a report on the key issues in relation to the matter. This must include: 1047

  • Any relevant provisions of a national policy statement, a regional policy statement, and a plan or proposed plan
  • A statement on whether all required resource consents have been applied for
  • The activity status of all proposed activities in relation to the matter.

A copy of the report must be provided to the applicant, every person who made a submission on the matter, and the Board of Inquiry or the Environment Court, depending on which entity the matter has been referred to. The EPA must also provide the Board of Inquiry or the Environment Court will the matter, all information received by the EPA and the submission received by the EPA. 1048

Decision by Board of Inquiry

The following process applies if the called-in matter is referred to a Board of Inquiry:

  1. The Minister appoints a board of inquiry of three to five members. The chairperson must be a current, former or retired Environment Court Judge or a retired High Court Judge. 1049  When appointing the board of inquiry the Minister must consider the need for the board to have available skill and experience relating to the Resource Management Act, the type of matter that the board will be considering, tikanga Maori, and the local community. It must also seek suggestions for potential board members from the local authority, through the suggestions are not binding. 1050
  2. If the matter referred to the board of inquiry is a request for a plan or plan change, the board may only accept or reject in its entirety the request to consider the plan or plan change. It must seek the local authority's view when deciding whether to accept or reject the request. 1051
  3. A hearing must be held and the location should be a place near to the area to which the matter relates. The board must give at least 10 working days notice of the place, date and time of the hearing.
  4. The board of inquiry generally considers a matter in the same way as the local authority. The board must however, also have regard to the Minister's reasons for calling in the matter and consider any information provided to it by the EPA. 1052  Unlike local authorities, the board of inquiry may permit cross-examination and must keep a full record of its hearings. 1053
  5. The board of inquiry prepares a draft decision and report which the EPA must send to all the parties inviting comments on minor or technical aspects of the report within 20 working days. Comments may address minor errors or omissions and the wording of conditions but not the board’s decision or its reasons for the decision. 1054  It is not an opportunity to relitigate matters in issue. 1055
  6. The board of inquiry considers any comments received and issues its final decision. The EPA must notify all parties of this decision. This decision must be issued within 9 months of the EPA notifying the matter. 1056
  7. The Minister may at any time grant an extension of the time in which the board of inquiry must produce its final report if special circumstances apply. The extended time period must not exceed 18 months unless the applicant agrees. 1057
  8. This decision may not be appealed to the Environment Court. It can be appealed to the High Court but only on matters of law. If a party wishes to appeal a High Court decision they must apply to the Supreme Court for leave to appeal (not the Court of Appeal). 1058
  9. The local authority must implement the decision of the board of inquiry. 1059

Decision by Environment Court

The following process applies if the called-in matter is referred to the Environment Court:

  1. The applicant must lodge a notice of motion specifying the orders sought and the grounds on which the application is made and a supporting affidavit setting out the circumstances giving rise to the application. These must be served on all of the parties. 1060
  2. Similar to the board of inquiry, the Environment Court generally considers the matter in the same way as the consent authority, however, it must have regard to the Minister's reasons for calling in the matter and any information provided to it by the EPA. 1061
  3. The Environment Court will issue its decision in the usual manner and the Environment Court’s normal procedures and powers will apply to call-in proceedings.
  4. The Environment Court's decision may be appealed to the High Court but only on matters of law. If a party wishes to appeal a High Court decision they must apply to the Supreme Court for leave to appeal (not the Court of Appeal). 1062
  5. The local authority must implement the decision of the board of inquiry. 1063

Costs of call in process

The actual and reasonable costs incurred in running the call in process may be recovered from the applicant. 1064

  1. Section 148 Resource Management Act 1991

  2. Section 142(3) Resource Management Act 1991

  3. Section 142 Resource Management Act 1991

  4. Section 142 Resource Management Act 1991

  5. Section 149ZA Resource Management Act 1991

  6. Section 147(1) Resource Management Act 1991

  7. Sections 142(4) and 147(4) Resource Management Act 1991

  8. Section 149N Resource Management Act 1991

  9. Section 149B Resource Management Act 1991

  10. Section 149A Resource Management Act 1991

  11. Section 149E Resource Management Act 1991

  12. Section 149F Resource Management Act 1991

  13. Section 149G Resource Management Act 1991

  14. Section 149G Resource Management Act 1991

  15. Section 149J Resource Management Act 1991

  16. Section 149K Resource Management Act 1991

  17. Section 149M Resource Management Act 1991

  18. Sections 149L and 149P Resource Management Act 1991

  19. Section 149L Resource Management Act 1991

  20. Section 149Q Resource Management Act 1991

  21. Board of Inquiry into the Upper North Island Grid Upgrade Proposal (September 2009)

  22. Section 149R Resource Management Act 1991

  23. Section 149S Resource Management Act 1991

  24. Section 149V Resource Management Act 1991

  25. Sections 149W and 149X Resource Management Act 1991

  26. Section 149T Resource Management Act 1991

  27. Section 149U Resource Management Act 1991

  28. Section 149V Resource Management Act 1991

  29. Sections 149W and 149X Resource Management Act 1991

  30. Section 149ZD Resource Management Act 1991

Last updated at 2:39PM on December 12, 2014