RMA Reforms - easing the resource consent process

Thursday February 11, 2016

On 26 November 2015, the Minister for the Environment, Hon Nick Smith introduced to Parliament the second phase of the resource management reforms under the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill 2015.  The reforms include over 40 individual proposals aimed at improving the current resource management process, and seek to provide stronger national policy direction.

Many of the changes are complex and will be of most interest to those closely involved in RMA processes.  For example, two new ways of producing policy statements and plans are introduced known as the 'collaborative planning process' and the 'streamlined planning process'.  However many changes are aimed at easing the resource consent process. 

Specifically, more efficient processing of resource consent applications is anticipated – this is achieved by:

  • Fast-track resource consent applications for controlled activities (other than the subdivision of land), or a prescribed activity, and if an email address is provided for service.  Council has 10 working days (instead of 20 working days) to decide whether to publicly or limited notify an application.
  • Certain activities may be considered permitted activities and not require resource consent.  For example, a boundary activity may be considered a permitted activity if it is approved by affected neighbours.  Councils will have discretion to state that an activity is permitted if it requires consent only because of marginal or temporary non-compliance with rules.

  • A new step by step process to determine whether to publicly notify, or limited notify an application.  Cases where an application will be publicly or limited notified are more confined.

  • Limiting the persons eligible to be considered affected persons.  This includes a restriction that only a prescribed person is eligible to be considered affected in relation to a prescribed activity.  For example, for an application for a boundary activity, the persons eligible to be considered affected are the owner or occupier of the land with an affected boundary.

  • Limited appeal rights to the Environment Court for subdivision and residential activity applications.  There is no right to appeal if the decision of a consent authority relates to resource consent for a boundary activity, a subdivision (unless it is a non-complying activity), or a residential activity on a single allotment, and is a controlled, restricted discretionary or discretionary activity.

These changes, if passed into law, should make the resource consent process easier for small scale and/or residential proposals.  They are unlikely to be of major benefit for large projects.

At the same time, these changes are designed to limit third party participation in consent processes, which has always been a hallmark of the RMA.

The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 has been referred to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee and submissions can be made until 14 March 2016.

If you would like to understand more or obtain advice then our resource management team is experienced in this area.  Contact Vanessa Hamm email vanessa.hamm@hobec.co.nz or phone 07 927 2754.