Changes to the RMA and notification

The potential for a resource consent application to be notified, be that public notification or limited notification (to neighbours), is a critical issue to assess and a large potential risk to applications in terms of costs, time and appeal rights. A non- notified resource consent application is always sought by applicants, but often not by neighbours. These sections of the Resource Management Act (RMA) have been the source of much change and appeals, so it’s no surprise they have been changed again in 2020.

2017 Changes to the RMA

In 2017 changes were made to the RMA, which reduced the circumstances when notification of a resource consent application could occur. The most commonly used changes related to “residential activities” and subdivision. The 2017 RMA changes precluded public notification of a resource consent related to a subdivision or residential activity, if the district plan identified them as a controlled, discretionary or restricted discretionary activity.

This was a useful change for many developments and focused the notification assessment on potential adverse effects on people.

2020 Changes to the RMA

Another round of RMA changes occurred in 2020, and this affected the provisions relating to notification also. The Ministry for the Environment stated that these changes were aimed at restoring public participation opportunities. The changes deleted the definition of “residential activity” and removed the public notification exclusion for controlled, discretionary or restricted discretionary activity subdivisions. These changes took effect from 30 September 2020.

This largely takes the RMA back to the notification provisions that had existed pre- 2017, and which most practitioners will be very familiar with. It does mean however that in most cases, a full assessment of potential adverse effects is required again at notification stage, whereas before you may have been able to focus only on potential effects on people. An assessment of all potential effects would still have occurred under the substantive decision on the resource consent application (under section 104 RMA), but this change does now open more opportunities for notification that were not present previously.

Keep in mind however that there are still activities in district plans where notification is explicitly excluded. The district plan will identify these provisions clearly, often in a note after the activity table. Contact your local Council or a planning consultant if you have questions about a specific rule.

Similarly, a resource consent can still be notified if “special circumstances” exist, although these provisions of the RMA are rarely used.

Where to from here?

Notification remains one of the biggest issues with resource consent applications, as it can completely change the application journey, costs and timeframes and opens up more opportunities for appeal. Its important to be fully aware of the risks associated with an application from the start- that way you can make an informed decision on how to proceed, amendments that could be made to reduce risks, and any specialist assessments you may need. Its always important to put your best foot forward in your resource consent application, clearly assess potential effects and have the right specialist assessments, plans and supporting information.

Get in contact

If you have any questions on notification get in contact with our resource consent specialists. We work with a team of other professionals, to provide you with a comprehensive service covering all the professionals you may need and making the process easy for our clients. You can contact us on and (09) 427 9966.


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.

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