Participating in resource consent processes

Assessing a resource consent application

In order to decide whether or not to lodge a submission, you will need to assess a resource consent application, to determine the effects of the proposed activity on the environment and your interests.

1) Ensure that you have the full application

Before assessing a resource consent application, ensure that you have access to the full documentation including description of the activity, plans of the site and the assessment of environmental effects (AEE) and any technical reports that support the AEE. 

2) Check the council's file

The local authority will have a file on the site. Ask to view the file so that you can identify any additional relevant information, including the history of the site.

3) Visit the site

Where possible, visit the site with a copy of the application and plans. You should ask the applicant for permission before entering onto private land. A site visit will enable you to better assess how you will be affected by the impacts of the proposal.

4) Consult with others

Arrange to meet with other affected parties to discuss the application. They may have similar concerns to yours and be able to provide different perspectives on the application. Explore the possibility of lodging a joint submission and pooling resources to obtain professional assistance. If possible, discuss the application with relevant professionals (such as a planner, ecologist or landscape architect) who can provide initial guidance on the adequacy of the application and potential impacts of the proposal.

5) Check that effects have been identified and addressed

From your local knowledge, site visit, consultation and other information gathering, check that the effects of concern to you have been adequately identified and assessed. This may include impacts on the neighbourhood and wider community, landscape and visual effects, effects on ecosystems and recreational and cultural resources, and impacts of discharges of contaminants and hazards.

Note: where an application is for a controlled or restricted discretionary activity, consideration of effects is limited to those effects that relate to matters over which control/discretion has been reserved.

6) Identify any modifications to mitigate effects

If the proposed activity is likely to have unacceptable adverse effects, identify how the application could be modified to reduce these effects to acceptable levels. Identification of potential modifications can form the basis of your negotiations with the applicant.

Providing written approval

A resource consent applicant may ask you to give written approval to the application. This is often because the local authority has indicated that it will not notify the application if the written approval of affected parties can be obtained. The following steps are recommended before providing such approval.

1) Ensure you have sufficient information

Make sure that the applicant has given you sufficient information to fully assess the impacts of the proposed activity. This includes complete copies of the application, plans and AEE, including any revised plans or other amendments to the application or AEE.

Arrange with the applicant to visit the site so you can better assess the impacts of the proposal on the ground.

Discuss the proposal with the applicant if you have any further queries. You may also like to discuss the application with council officers and consult the council file which will give you more historical information.

2) Make a thorough assessment of the likely impacts

Before giving written approval make sure that you have fully identified the effects of the proposal on you or your property (see assessing a resource consent application). You may also wish to consult a lawyer or other professionals if you are unsure about the likely impacts.

3) Take sufficient time

Do not feel pressured to sign before you have had time to carry out a proper and informed assessment. There are no statutory limits on the time available for you to make a decision on whether or not to give consent. You are under no obligation whatsoever. Should the application be publicly notified in the interim, this will not prevent you from providing your written approval at any time before a hearing is held by the consent authority.

4) Negotiate changes where required

If you are not happy with the proposal as set out by the applicant, you may be able to negotiate amendments which address your concerns. Raise these with the applicant, who may well be willing to make changes in order to obtain your consent and thereby avoid public notification. Make sure the plans show the agreed changes before you sign them.

Effect of not giving written approval

If you do not give written approval, the application is likely to be at least given limited notification and you will have the opportunity to lodge a submission raising your concerns. This is likely to be a much more costly and time-consuming process for the applicant, particularly if a hearing is required.

Effect of giving written approval

If you give written approval, you will not be able to object to the proposal at a later stage, even if the application is notified. In addition, when assessing the application and deciding whether or not to grant consent, the consent authority will not be able to take into account any adverse effects on you or your property.  You will no longer be considered an "affected party".

Changing your mind

You can change your mind and withdraw your approval for the application by giving written notice to the consent authority (and the applicant) at any time up until the date of the hearing or (if there is no hearing) up until the date that the consent authority formally considers the application.

Preparing submissions on resource consent applications

Before preparing a submission on a resource consent application you will need to assess the application to identify which aspects of the application you wish to support or oppose. Once you have identified issues you would like to raise, you will need to prepare a written submission, lodge it with the consent authority before the closing date for submissions and serve a copy on the applicant.

Form of submission

Submissions must be prepared generally in accordance with Form 13. Many councils have produced their own submission forms which meet the requirements of Form 13.

Best Practice Example

Content of submission

Your submission needs to address all six elements in Form 13:

A: The name of the applicant and details about the application

Insert the name of the applicant, type of resource consent applied for (e.g. land use consent, water permit), the activity which is proposed (e.g. constructing a house, subdividing a property) and the location of the proposal.

B: The specific parts of the application that your submission relates to

Clearly indicate which parts of the application you are concerned with. If you are concerned with the whole application you can state 'the application in its entirety'. If you are concerned with only part, describe that part e.g. 'that part of the application which relates to vegetation clearance' but avoid being overly specific as your rights of participation in later proceedings will be limited by the scope of your original submission.

C: Your submission

State whether you support or oppose the whole or specific parts of the application as identified above or are neutral regarding the application or specific parts of it.

If you support or oppose the whole application state this e.g. 'I support the application in its entirety' or 'I oppose the application in its entirety'.

If you support or oppose part of the application clearly specify which part e.g. 'I oppose the part of the application which seeks consent to discharge stormwater into the Waikato River.'

You then need to clearly set out the reasons for your support or opposition to the proposal or your neutral stance. The reasons need to relate to environmental matters and cannot relate to trade competition, the financial viability of the proposal or the whether the applicant or consent authority is acting in good faith. In stating the reasons for your submission you should give consideration to the following:

  • Are there any negative effects that the proposal will have on you and any implications flowing from this, such as your ability to occupy and enjoy your property?
  • If there are likely to be significant adverse effects, has there been adequate consideration of alternatives?
  • Are adequate actions proposed to avoid, remedy or mitigate the effects?
  • Is the application consistent with Part 2 of the RMA including the overarching purpose of sustainable management (section 5), the matters of national importance (section 6) and other matters (section 7)?
  • Is the application consistent with the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement or any other national policy statement in force?
  • Is the application consistent with any relevant regional policy statement and/or regional plans?
  • Is the application consistent with the district plan?
  • If the application is for a non-complying activity:
  • Are the adverse effects on the environment more than minor? 'Minor' means that the effects are comparatively small in size and importance, although they can be more than minimal.
  • Is the proposed activity contrary to the objectives and policies of the relevant plan and proposed plan?

You may wish to briefly refer to any information you have on the current environment and the impacts of this on the proposed activity. For example, there may be important habitats or landscapes which will be negatively impacted on. It is good practice to keep submissions concise and accurate leaving detailed issues to be addressed during evidence presentation at the hearing.

D: The decision you seek from the consent authority

Be as precise as possible about what decision you would like the consent authority to make, including the parts of the application you wish to have amended, for example:

  • 'Approve the application.'
  • 'Decline the application in its entirety.'
  • 'Only approve the application if a condition is imposed to the effect that no stormwater is discharged from the site.'
  • 'Only approve the application if the following condition is imposed: 'All stormwater shall be treated and disposed of within the boundaries of the site' or wording to like effect.

Remember, avoid being overly specific as your rights of participation in later proceedings will be limited by the scope of your original submission. 

E: Whether you wish to be heard in support of your submission

State whether or not you would like to go to the hearing of the resource consent application to present your submissions in person. If you are raising more than minor issues, you should consider attending the hearing to present them in person. The hearing committee is likely to give greater weight to submissions when members have the opportunity of hearing from the submitter and asking any questions that they have in relation to the submission.

Stating that you wish to be heard at the submission stage does not obligate you to appear at the hearing later if you change your mind. Therefore there is little to be gained by stating you do not wish to be heard. Also, if you state you do not wish to be heard, the council is not obliged to advise you of the hearing.

F: If others make a similar submission would you consider presenting a joint case with them at a hearing

You will gain points with the council if you indicate a willingness to collaborate with other submitters raising similar matters or issues. This will reduce potential repetition and the length of the hearing.

Presentation of submission

Try to make your submission as clear and easily understood as possible. Use a readable typeface such as Arial 11 point, with wide margins, ample spacing and liberal use of headings.

Lodging of submission

You should deliver, email or mail your submission to the consent authority in advance of the closing date (the 20th working day after public notification) or any later date specified in the public notice. You must also send a copy of the submission to the applicant as soon as reasonably practicable after you have lodged it with the consent authority.

If your submission is lodged after the closing date you can apply to the council for a waiver of the time limit. This is only likely to be granted if it does not prejudice other parties or unduly delay the process. However, the consent authority can only agree to extend the time period for making a submission from 20 working days to up to 40 working days after public notification in special circumstances, or if the applicant agrees to a greater extension.

There is no charge for lodging a submission.

Pre-hearing meetings

The consent authority may invite, or if the applicant agrees require, the applicant and some or all submitters to attend a pre-hearing meeting for the purpose of clarifying or facilitating the resolution of a matter or issue. 1032

The chairperson of the pre-hearing meeting is required to prepare a report setting out the issues that were agreed at the meeting and those which remain outstanding. The report may also set out the nature of evidence parties are to call at the hearing, the order in which parties will present their cases and a proposed timetable for the hearing. The report must be provided to all the parties at least five working days before the hearing. The consent authority must have regard to the report when reaching its decision on the application.

If you are required to attend a pre-hearing meeting, but do not do so and fail to provide a reasonable excuse, the consent authority can decline to consider your application or submission. If this happens you will not be able to appeal the decision on the resource consent application. A reasonable excuse for not attending a meeting could relate to difficulties getting time off work, illness or childcare commitments.

You have no rights to directly appeal to the Environment Court a council decision not to consider your application or submission. You are, however, able to lodge an objection with the consent authority under section 357A of the RMA. To do this, you must set out your objection and the reasons for it in writing and deliver it to the consent authority no later than 15 working days after you received notice of the decision. The council will decide whether to dismiss or uphold your objection and this decision can be appealed to the Environment Court. 1033

The consent authority can refer a resource consent applicant and submitters to mediation if all parties agree. The person who conducts the mediation must report the outcome to the consent authority. 1034  Mediation can help to resolve issues, or narrow the areas in dispute, resulting in a shorter hearing.

Presenting submissions at council hearings

If you have lodged a submission on a resource consent application, and have indicated in your submission that you would like to be heard, you will have the opportunity of presenting oral submissions and evidence to a hearing body.

The hearing body

The hearing body can vary widely between different types of hearings and local authorities. It can consist of the entire council, a council hearing panel, a lone commissioner or a panel including a commissioner and councillors. Sometimes membership will include tangata whenua representatives and members of community boards. Hearing body members can vary greatly in their experience, understanding and views.

Hearing procedure

Local authority hearings are required to avoid unnecessary formality and no cross-examination is permitted. This means that you cannot question other submitters and they cannot question you during the hearing. Members of the hearing panel may ask questions to clarify the evidence which has been presented. There can be considerable variations in procedure adopted by different hearing bodies.

The hearing of submissions on a resource consent application may take place over several days or weeks depending on the size of the proposal and the number of submitters. The hearing may be divided into topics, with submissions on each topic being heard together, or the hearing body may hear each submitter in turn. You will be asked to estimate the time needed to make your presentation to enable the council to schedule the submitters. You may be asked to pre-circulate any expert evidence you intend to present.

Preparation of submissions to present at the hearing

Always make your submissions are available in written form. This ensures that the hearing body members do not need to take extensive notes and can refer to your submissions later. Hand out copies of your submissions prior to your oral presentation. You will need to bring sufficient copies for all members of the hearing panel and for the Council file.

It is useful to identify ahead of time who will be on the hearing body, and their backgrounds and likely points of view, so that you can target your submissions accordingly.

The purpose of your submissions is to persuade the hearing body members to agree with your point of view. Avoid being argumentative or badgering.

Avoid attacking the applicant, council or council staff. This is inappropriate and counterproductive. Try to start your submissions with a positive statement about the council. For example, 'I would like to commend the council for adopting innovative approaches for protecting indigenous vegetation. However, I have the following concerns about the mechanisms for their implementation …'.

Clearly state your concerns and provide information to back up your point of view.

Be concise and to the point. Avoid being verbose. Do not get side tracked with irrelevant matters, allegations or conspiracy theories.

Make sure that all the material presented to support your submission is consistent.

Where possible illustrate your points with maps, photographs and illustrations.

Always use words that you understand and customarily use so that your presentation flows naturally.

Structure of submissions

Start by introducing yourself and/or your organisation. Provide a brief description of your background, and your organisation's objectives, activities and membership base.

Where you have made efforts to resolve your concerns directly with the applicant or council state this and the reasons why no resolution was achieved (without directly attacking the bona fides of the applicant or council officers).

State concisely the issues which are of concern to you.

Where there is more than one person involved in presenting your case, state who will be giving submissions or evidence and on what issues. Each issue of concern should have a separate section in your submission. This should state in more detail the nature of your concern, provide supporting information to support your concern, and clearly state what action you would like the council to take in order to address the concern.

Where you agree with the conclusions of the officer's report say so. Where you differ, identify these points clearly and state why you differ.

Include a brief concluding section which summarises the essence of your concerns and action sought.

Thank the hearing body for taking the time to hear and consider your submissions.

Sources of supporting information

Supporting information for issues of concern can include:

Drawing the hearing body members' attention to relevant sections of the RMA, New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement and other national policy statements, regional policy statements, regional plans and district plans.

Identifying any relevant research and reports which support your concerns

Describing local knowledge that you have about the environment and the impacts of the proposed provisions on it.

Describing practical cases or examples which illustrate your main points (such as previous zoning controls which had negative effects).

You may wish to use a lawyer or other representative (e.g. planner) to support your case and call expert witnesses relevant to your specific matters of concern (e.g. planner, ecologist, noise specialist).

Presenting your submissions

Read from your written submissions but, where appropriate, ad-lib relevant comments.

Speak slowly and clearly and try to vary your tone to keep up interest.

Where possible illustrate points through reference to photographs, maps, slides and other pictorial material. Make sure that all members of the hearing body have copies. It can be useful to take a large map or diagram, which can be placed on a display board, to illustrate points during your presentation.

Try to avoid repeating what others have already said. Even if you have included such material in the written version of the submissions, you can skip over these sections, and politely inform the hearing body that you are leaving out sections to avoid repetition. They will be relieved!

There is no charge for presenting oral submissions at a council hearing

  1. Section 358 Resource Management Act 1991

  2. Section 99A Resource Management Act 1991

  3. Section 99 Resource Management Act 1991

Last updated at 11:55AM on January 5, 2018