About the resource consent process

Learn about the Resource Management Act, Resource Consents, and how to prepare a submission.

Note: Kaitiaki Tools were developed to assist people involved in the resource consent process and focusses on the potential impact of land-use change or point source discharges on freshwater mahinga kai. This project was completed in 2011. Some information may be outdated.

Learn about the Resource Management Act, resource consents, and how to prepare a submission.

What is a resource consent?

There are different types of resource consents and activities that require a consent.

The most familiar and commonly recognised aspect of the Resource Management Act (RMA) are Resource Consents. Resource Consents give you permission to use or develop a natural or physical resource and/or carry out an activity that affects the environment.

There are five types of Resource Consents:

  1. Water permits - take, use, dam, and divert.
  2. Discharge permits - to land, air, and water.
  3. Coastal permits - construction, deposit, disturb, and alter.
  4. Land use consent - build, excavation, and damage to habitat.
  5. Subdivision consent

Types of activities

Some activities may not require a Resource Consent. Regional and District Plans outline activities that require a Resource Consent by grouping them into six types:

  • Permitted activities - these activities do not require a Resource Consent, but may need to comply with conditions outlined in a plan.
  • Controlled activities - these activities do require a Resource Consent; however, if the activity complies with the requirements set out in the plans an application cannot be turned down.
  • Restricted discretionary activities - these activities do require a Resource Consent. For these activities the Council are able to exercise a degree of discretion over granting Resource Consent and an application may be turned down. However, the council's discretion is limited only to certain areas that are specified in the plan.
  • Discretionary activities - these activities do require a Resource Consent. These activities are allowed once a Resource Consent has been granted; so, if the effects are less than minor, the Council has discretion to accept or refuse consent.
  • Non-complying activities - these activities do require a Resource Consent. These are activities that are not specifically provided for in the plans but that contravene a rule in the plan.
  • Prohibited activities - these activities are not allowed. You cannot apply for Resource Consent; however, you can apply for a change in the plans or a law change.

Resource Management Act

The Resource Management Act (RMA) is legislation, administered by Regional Councils, which focuses on the sustainable management of New Zealand’s natural and physical resources.

The Resource Management Act (RMA) is legislation, administered by Regional Councils, which focuses on the sustainable management of New Zealand’s natural and physical resources. Thus, the management of New Zealand’s freshwater resources occurs within the framework of the RMA. The RMA sets out “matters of national importance” which must be recognised and provided for by all persons who exercise functions and powers under the Act.

These include:

  • The preservation and protection of the natural character of wetlands, and lakes and rivers and their margins
  • The protection of areas of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitats of indigenous fauna
  • The maintenance and enhancement of public access to lakes and rivers
  • The relationship of Māori and their culture and traditions with their ancestral lands, water, sites, wāhi tapu, and other taonga.

The RMA also requires all persons exercising functions and powers under the Act to have particular regard to (among other things):

  • Kaitiakitanga
  • The efficient use and development of natural and physical resources
  • The maintenance and enhancement of amenity values
  • Intrinsic values of ecosystems
  • Maintenance and enhancement of the quality of the environment
  • Any finite characteristics of natural and physical resources
  • The protection of the habitat of trout and salmon.

In addition, all persons exercising functions and powers under the Act are required to take into account the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

In considering an application or submission for a Resource Consent, the RMA imposes a duty on all people to avoid, remedy, or mitigate adverse effects on the environment. The Act also contains restrictions on discharging contaminants into water and on the taking, use, damming, or diversion of water, and certain uses of the beds of lakes and rivers.

The Act does not prescribe particular standards; many acceptable practices will be established through case law. Establishing Resource Consents will set benchmarks for standards, and monitoring will be required to assess any significant adverse environmental impacts. If these are detected, standards could then be modified.

Consent process

The consent process includes notification of consents, submission, hearings, and appeals. These steps are further explained below:

1. Receive application

Once the application for Resource Consent has been received by the appropriate authority, the first step they will take in processing the application will be to make sure that the application has been filled out properly and that it is complete.

2. Enough information

The second step in processing an application is to make sure that it contains enough information. If an applicant has provided sufficient information the application will move to the next step. However, if the applicant has not provided sufficient information, the consent authority will make a request for additional information.

3. Decide to notify or not notify

Under the RMA, an applicant must have a statement in their consent application that identifies those people affected by the proposal and how they have been consulted. The consent application will also have an Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE). These two statements help the consent authority to determine whether a consent application needs to be notified.

There are three types of notification:

(1) No notification, (2) Limited notification, (3) Public notification

Deciding whether to notify or not notify a consent application is one of the most important decisions a consent authority will make during the processing of an application. Deciding whether to notify or not notify dictates the appropriate process that an application will take and the time it takes to process the application.

No notification

No notification is when the consent is not notified. This usually occurs when the effects are considered to be no more than minor and there are no parties affected. You cannot lodge a submission on a non-notified consent

Limited notification

Limited notification is when only those parties that are considered to be affected by the application get notified. Limited notification usually takes effect when the environmental effects are consider to be no more than minor, but the consent applicant has not obtained written approval from those parties that are considered to be affected. In this case the consent authority will serve a notice of the application on those affected. Only those people served with a notice of the application can lodge a submission to the application.

Public notification

Public notification is when the consent authority has to publicly notify the application for consent. Public notification usually takes effect when the effects are more widespread on the environment. Public notification involves the consent authority serving notices of the application on:

  • Owners and occupiers of the land
  • People considered adversely affected by the application
  • Local authorities
  • Iwi authorities.

The consent authority also has to place a notice in the local newspaper and/or on their website and may erect signage at the site giving notice.

4. Preparing a submission

After the application for consent has been notified, there is a 20-day period where submissions can be made on the application.

More information on making a submission

5. Pre-hearing

The consent authority may choose to hold a pre-hearing before the formal hearing. This usually involves the applicant, submitters, and other interested parties. Pre-hearings provide an opportunity for all parties to clarify and possibly resolve particular issues. In some instances, if all the issues are resolved at a pre-hearing, a formal hearing will not take place.

6. Hearing

The RMA does not require that a hearing be held in all instances. A hearing is only held when the consent authority considers it necessary or when the applicant or submitters request to be heard. A hearing must start no later than 25 workings days after the closing date for submissions. Hearings are a formal process, they must be public, and tikanga Māori must be recognised by the consent authority. During the hearing, cross-examination is not allowed and only the hearing committee may ask questions.

7. Decision made

If the consent application is notified and goes to hearing, the decision on the application is made by the hearing panel or committee. These decisions must be issued no later than 15 working days after the end of the hearing. If the application is non-notified, a sub-committee of staff from the consent authority makes the decision and these decision must be issued no later than 20 days after the application was lodged.

8. Decision and conditions issued

Upon issuing a consent application decision the consent authority may choose to impose a set of conditions on the consent. The purpose of consent conditions are to avoid, remedy, or mitigate any adverse effects associated with the activity in question. Conditions may include - carrying out environmental monitoring, paying a financial contribution, providing remedial works or services such as tree planting.

9. Appeal

If an applicant or submitter has an issue with the decision made by the consent authority, they can lodge an appeal to the Environment Court. An appeal must be lodged with the Registrar of the Environment Court (registries in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch) and a notice served on the consent authority in question within 15 working days of the decision being issued. During the Environment Court process they look at all the information afresh. Their decision is final unless new information comes to light and they decide to review their decision or an appeal has been made to the high court in question to the law.

10. Consent issued if granted

Making a submission

Tips and guidelines on how to prepare a resource consent submission.

Making a submission

A submission is a written statement about a notified Resource Consent application. It may be in support or opposition of an application, or it may just be a neutral expression of your views. Any person or organisation can make a submission on a publicly notified consent application.

Understand the consent application

Firstly it is important that you make yourself familiar with the consent application and that you fully understand what the application is about and what the effects will be.

Current publicly notified consent applications can usually be found on the relevant consent authority website. They can also be obtained over the desk from the respective consent authority.

Engage in discussions

There may be other people in your area that have the same opinions as you do about the proposed activity, they may also be thinking about preparing a submission, so it's important to talk to the people around you. Preparing a submission can sometimes be rather time consuming, so often its a good idea to pool resources and lodge a joint submission with others.

It's also important to talk to the applicant, the consent authority, and your own personal adviser's. The consent authority may be able to provide you with some clarity on certain aspects of the consent that you are not clear on. Also by talking to the applicant you may be able to reach an agreement that takes into account your concerns and minimises the effects on you without going through the process of writing a formal submission.

A submissions is only lodged if you feel that your concerns are not being heard or that your support will not be taken into account any other way.

Preparing a submission

When preparing a submission it's essential that you carefully read the application and its Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE). Think about how the proposal will affect you and why you want to make a submission.

A good submission is specific and to the point, it clearly identifies which part of the proposal your views relate to, it explains your key reasons for making a submission, and it provides information that supports your view.

Lodging a submission

A formal consent submission must be lodged using the correct form, with each consent authority having their own specific submission forms . Submissions must be served on the consent authority and the applicant within 20 workings days of it being publicly notified. Late submissions may not be excepted. Most consent authorities allow submissions to be lodged in person or via post, email, or fax; however, if sending via email or fax they often require that you also send a hard copy via the post.

Resource Management Act