The Resource Management Act 1991 (commonly known as the RMA) is the main piece of legislation that sets out the framework for resource management decision-making in New Zealand. The Act's purpose is to promote sustainable management of natural and physical resources. Local Authorities (Councils) have direct responsibility for the day-to-day management of these resources, in both urban and rural environments, in accordance with the objectives, policies and rules set out in the District Plan.
What is a Resource Consent?
A Resource Consent is permission from the local Council for an activity that may affect the environment, and that isn't allowed 'as of right' in the District Plan. Local Authorities ensure resource users avoid, remedy, or mitigate adverse effects on the natural and physical environment by considering Resource Consent applications. If you wish to use land in a manner that does not comply with a rule in the District Plan you will need to apply for a Resource Consent.
There are six types of consent categories and these are generally ranked according to the expected effects they might have.
Permitted Activity: No Resource Consent is required for these activities, and are allowed 'as of right' subject to complying with any conditions set out in the District Plan (i.e. maximum heights).
Controlled Activity: Council must grant a Resource Consent for a Controlled activity unless it has insufficient information to determine whether or not the activity is a Controlled activity. Council may grant consent subject to conditions that must be complied with. If granted, conditions may only be imposed when they relate to items specified in the District Plan.
Restricted Discretionary Activity: Council may grant or decline Resource Consent for a Restricted Discretionary activity, however Council's discretion is restricted to items specified in the District Plan.
Discretionary Activity: Council can grant or decline an application for a Discretionary activity. If granted, it can impose conditions in relation to any matters that help to control any of the activity's potential adverse effects.
Non-complying Activity: Council can only grant an application for a non-complying activity if its adverse effects are minor, if it is consistent with the District Plan's objectives and policies. If Council grants Consent, the Council can impose conditions in relation to any matter that helps to control the activity's potential adverse effects.
Prohibited Activity: Council cannot accept a Resource Consent application for a Prohibited activity.
Activities are classified in the Operative and Proposed District Plans and the Waikato Regional Plan. Every Council's plan is different and rules will also differ between areas within a city, district or region.
Types of Resource Consent
Local Councils deal with land use and subdivision consents.
A land use consent is required where the whole or part of a proposed activity or structure does not fully comply with all the relevant rules in the District Plan, such as moving a second-hand building onto a property, or wanting to build close to a boundary.
A sub-division consent is required to legally divide land or buildings for separate ownership, such as new lots or sections.
The Waikato Regional Council deals with water, discharge and coastal permits. If your proposed activity involves these you will need to contact Waikato Regional Council (previously Environment Waikato) for more information.
The first step is always to contact the Planning Unit of your local Council to discuss your proposed activity. You will also find the rules and controls relating to specific activities by referring to the relevant section of your local Council's District Plan. A Resource Consent must be obtained before any activity or development commences, otherwise you can be prosecuted under the RMA.
Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE)
One of the most critical parts of the whole application is the content and quality of the Assessment of Environmental Effects. An AEE is an accurate and objective statement about the effects of a proposed activity or structure. Every activity has some effect on the environment, either positive or negative. You must submit an AEE with the application (unless stated otherwise). Your local Council will be able to advise you what you need to include in your application and how much detail you need to provide in the AEE.
You may also be required to consult with parties who may actually or potentially be affected by the proposed development. How you consult with these parties will depend on the nature and scale of the anticipated effects. For some proposals, you may need to consult only the immediate neighbours to the site: for others, a whole neighbourhood or suburb may need to be consulted. Contact the Planning Unit of your local Council for further information.
Notification of Applications
Once the application has been lodged the Council will consider the proposal and will determine the scale and effects of the proposed activity and any affected parties, and how it should be notified. The Resource Management Act 1991 provides specific guidance to Councils on whether or not an application is to be notified. If it is to be notified it will be either Non-Notified, Limited Notified or Publicly Notified.
Non-Notified: If Council is satisfied that the adverse effects on the environment will be no more than minor, and the written approval of all affected parties has been obtained, or the rules in the District Plan(s) state the application may be considered without notification, then the application will not have to be publicly notified. The majority of applications are Non-Notified.
Limited Notified: If Council considers that the adverse effects on the environment of the proposal will be more than minor, or consent from all affected parties has not been obtained, the application may still need to be notified to only those affected parties. Affected parties are invited to lodge submissions on the proposal.
Publicly Notified: Applications where the effects on the environment are deemed to be more than minor will be publicly notified, and advertised by Council. Any parties who could actually or potentially be affected by the proposal are notified in writing of the application, and the application is made available for inspection at the local Council. Any person (please refer to the Resource Management Act 1991 for definition of a 'person') can make a submission on a Publicly Notified Resource Consent application. Notification may involve a Council hearing (if requested) and a pre-hearing meeting.
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The above information is intended only as a guide. For further information contact the Planning Unit of your local Council or refer to the sections available online from the Council websites.
Hamilton City Council: Planning Guidance & Resource Consents
The Ministry for the Environment has published the following information available in the section on the Resource Management Act on their website, www.mfe.govt.nz (see Environmental Governanace section)
- An Everyday Guide to the Resource Management Act Series
- Your Guide to the Resource Management Act
- A beginner's guide to Resource and Building Consent processes under the Resource Management Act 1991 and the Building Act 2004 (PDF 2.2MB)
- Applying for a Resource Consent
- Consultation for Resource Consent Applicants
- A Guide to Preparing a Basic Assessment of Environmental Effects
- Your Rights as an 'Affected Person'
- Making a Submission about a Resource Consent Application
- Appearing at a Resource Consent Hearing
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Page last updated: 2013-03-22