If you’ve ever applied for a resource consent or looked into it, you will have heard the term “AEE”. But what does this planning jargon mean and what does it mean for you?
What is an AEE?
AEE is an acronym for “Assessment of Environmental Effects”. It’s a fundamental part of your resource consent
application and your application won’t be accepted by the Council for processing if it doesn’t contain one. Its also not enough to “just have one”- it needs to be fit for purpose, covering the relevant matters and being in detail commensurate to the type of activity you’re applying for. The Council will have a basic review of your resource consent application, including the AEE, when the application is first lodged. This is a check under section 88 of the Resource Management Act (RMA) for completeness. If your application doesn’t contain all the necessary preliminary information it will usually be rejected and you will need to update the application and then relodge it.
What should be in my AEE?
This is governed by the Resource Management Act and planning documents related to your development. The Fourth Schedule of the RMA sets out the minimum requirements for an AEE. Your AEE should include:
if it is likely that the activity will result in any significant adverse effect on the environment, a description of any possible alternative locations or methods for undertaking the activity;
an assessment of the actual or potential effect on the environment of the activity, including:
any effect on those in the neighbourhood and, where relevant, the wider community, including any social, economic, or cultural effects,
any physical effect on the locality, including any landscape and visual effects,
any effect on ecosystems, including effects on plants or animals and any physical disturbance of habitats in the vicinity,
any effect on natural and physical resources having aesthetic, recreational, scientific, historical, spiritual, or cultural value, or other special value, for present or future generations,
any discharge of contaminants into the environment, including any unreasonable emission of noise, and options for the treatment and disposal of contaminants,
any risk to the neighbourhood, the wider community, or the environment through natural hazards or hazardous installations.
a description of the mitigation measures (including safeguards and contingency plans where relevant) to be undertaken to help prevent or reduce the actual or potential effect;
identification of the persons affected by the activity, any consultation undertaken, and any response to the views of any person consulted;
if the scale and significance of the activity’s effects are such that monitoring is required, a description of how and by whom the effects will be monitored if the activity is approved.
A requirement to include information in the assessment of environmental effects is subject to the provisions of any policy statement or plan.
Your assessment should include the matters identified in the relevant plan, such as Matters for Discretion and Assessment Criteria.
Why spend time and money drafting your AEE?
The AEE is a fundamental part of your resource consent application. It needs to be thorough and address the relevant issues that the Council will be assessing. Typically, the more effort you put into preparing a thorough resource consent application the easier, faster and cheaper the consent process is. You often hear in the media about resource consents being expensive. In some cases that’s true, but also people often submit very poor AEE’s. This leaves the Council no choice but to undertake the assessments themselves; they are legally obliged to demonstrate that the assessment was undertaken. If you submit a well written AEE that addresses all the relevant issues, the Council can adopt your assessment, making the process cheaper and faster.
AEE’s can be complex assessments, and as with all technical assessments your money is generally well spent in getting a specialist to assist you. Make sure you do your homework and use someone who has the skills, experience and ethics to do a good job for you. Also make sure they have professional insurances.
The planning profession isn’t regulated in New Zealand; anyone can say they’re a planner but the quality of service and skill level varies. Choosing a member of the New Zealand Planning Institute (NZPI) can give you greater comfort regarding a person’s skills and knowledge, due to requirements planners need to meet to gain and then obtain membership.
At Planning Plus, all our planners are members of the NZPI and Hannah is the secretary of the Auckland Branch Committee.
What else should my resource consent application include?
In addition to an AEE, your application should also include:
a description of the activity.
a description of the site at which the activity is to occur.
the full name and address of each owner or occupier of the site.
a description of any other activities that are part of the proposal to which the application relates.
a description of any other resource consents required for the proposal to which the application relates.
An assessment of positive effects.
an assessment of the activity against the matters set out in Part 2:
an assessment of the activity against any relevant provisions of a document referred to in section 104(1)(b).
A current Certificate of Title and related Instruments.
Plans, to scale.
Any necessary supporting reports or information.
Any other specific information identified in the relevant planning document (examples in Auckland include Heritage Assessment and Landscape Plan).
Often, this will all be combined into one report with attachments. The application documentation should be easy for the Council to read, to find the relevant reports, and be a stand-alone document; it shouldn’t cross reference to documents, plans or information that isn’t part of the application itself. There are some exceptions to this however, usually Council documents themselves (such as Engineering Standards or the actual planning document you’re applying under).
If you need further information on AEE’s, you could have a look at other blogs available on our website free of charge. We have written about a wide variety of resource consent topics, and they are useful for all types of development. You can also download for free a copy of our e-guide, Resource Consent in 4 East Steps. Here we set out in easy to read steps, how you can put together a resource consent application. There are even checklists to make the process even easier for you.
And of course you can also contact us. Our friendly and knowledgeable team is only an e-mail or phone call away 09 427 9966 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hannah Thomson is Director of Planning Plus and has over 17 years of resource management experience working in both local government and the private sector. Hannah has a wide range of experience including commercial, rural, residential and coastal development and subdivision on small to large scales and appearances at both Council and Environment Court as an expert witness for mediation and hearings. Hannah has assisted Councils with policy development and has also assisted private individuals with submissions to Council.
Disclaimer As with all our blogs, the information detailed here is general in nature and meant as a preliminary guide only. This should not be substituted for your own investigations or use of your own professional’s. Planning Plus is not liable for any errors or omissions.