When undertaking a development, it is critical to understand the costs associated with the project and also ways you can reduce the costs. You may not realise that you do have some control over reducing your Council resource consent processing fees- but how?
How are costs calculated?
In last week’s blog we provided a breakdown of how Council fees are calculated. Council resource consent processing fees are generally calculated on an hourly- rate basis. That means you are charged for the actual time someone spends on your application, including administration staff, planners, engineers, and team leaders.
When an application is lodged a Council deposit fee is paid, this therefore means Council will charge more where:
An application may be more complex and more time is needed for assessments, or more people are involved; or
The application is lacking in quality assessments and/ or information.
Council may charge less than the deposit fee, and provide a refund, where a resource consent application is thorough, complete and provides the necessary assessment, in the appropriate detail, and the required information. This all allows for efficient processing of an application. Auckland Council for example allows their staff to adopt parts of the assessments submitted if they provide appropriate assessment, address the relevant issues and are in sufficient detail.
The best way to reduce processing fees is to reduce the amount of time council staff need to spend on your resource consent application, whether your project be large and complex or small and more straight forward. How can you do that?
Get the right team
It’s important to work with the right team who have detailed knowledge of the resource consent process, have the skills and experience to provide the necessary assessment to support your specific project, and do this in a way which will be acceptable to the Council. Keep in mind that not all people are suitable for your project- they may be friendly and cheaper, but this doesn’t mean they will get the best results for your project or minimise your Council fees. In some cases, a profession may be unregulated (such as planning) and the person you’re relying on to get your project over the line may have no qualifications, consenting experience, may not belong to the New Zealand Planning Institute or be up to date with all the recent changes in legislation, best practise etc.
You may prefer to use a company with a lot of inhouse specialists. Are you sure that all the specialists in- house are right for your project? Do they have the skills and experience you need? Will this actually save you time in the long run?
Picking the right project team is critical and will contribute to a positive outcome for your resource consent application and will assist in reducing your overall costs and processing fees.
Do the work upfront
Once you have selected the right project team, it’s important to undertake thorough background investigations to inform the design stage. This may include assessment of the Record of Title, services, natural hazards, along with Unitary Plan rules, criteria and other provisions. It is important to have a clear understanding of what the planning documents seek to achieve, the existing environment and how your goals fit within that. Once the preliminary assessments are complete more detailed design can begin. It’s important to undertake these investigations first, to identify risks at the outset, ensure you don’t identify site restrictions late and/ or have to redesign.
Your planner will guide the project team to ensure that their assessments and reports address the Unitary Plan requirements and provide the right level of assessment for the scale and risk of your project. This ensures you don’t pay for assessment and plans you don’t need and also ensures that requests for further information from Council are minimised, saving your time and costs through the processing of your application.
Get a good application together
The largest amount of Council staff time will be from the Council planner and specialist staff who are assessing your application. Making sure your application addresses all the relevant issues, potential effects, objectives and policies is your best way of reducing Council processing fees- the better your application is the less time Council staff need to spend on it. This reduces your direct Council costs and also the processing time. Reducing processing time has positive impacts on the overall development timeframe and holding costs. It also provides more certainty in terms of construction costs, and for sales.
There is no benefit in lodging a sub-standard application and waiting to “see what Council says”. Failure to undertake the necessary assessments and provide relevant information will only result in more requests for information from the Council, and more likely backwards and forwards communications, and staff double handling you application. The time related to this quickly adds up, and your costs will significantly increase. If you take into account Council staff hourly rates, which in Auckland can easily be around $200 per hour, you can see how easily thousands of dollars can be added to your invoice. Spending a little more time upfront can save you ten- fold in overall costs.
On the flip side, if you lodge a good resource consent application that is thorough and addresses the matters Council will be assessing and is in the required format, Council staff can adopt the assessment/s in your application. This saves considerable Council processing time and will save you a lot of money. It’s a good incentive to get the assessments and application right from the start!
Good communication not only builds positive relationships, but it also saves time and with resource consents time means money. If the Council asks for information, has questions or concerns, your Planner should communicate with them openly and honestly. If your planner thinks the question is outside the scope of what’s being applied for, they should have that conversation with Council. There may be also quick solutions which can be discussed on the phone or via email that don’t affect your project but makes a big difference for the Council team.
An experienced planner will know and understand what Council is actually looking for or what their concerns are. This is valuable in resolving issues quickly. Reducing the backwards and forwards communication reduces everyone’s time and expense.
Want to reduce your fees?
Planning Plus have extensive consenting experience, including over 20 years of processing resource consents for Councils, so our team are knowledgeable about processes and issues on both sides of the fence. Our team are all qualified planners and member of the New Zealand Planning Institute. We work with a variety of well-respected and experienced specialists who we can recommend for your specific project, to get the best results for you and your project. You aren’t tied into using in- house specialists- we get the best team for you and your project.
We know the process inside out. Resource consents are what we do; let us take the stress out of the process for you. Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 427 9966. We look forward to hearing from you!
Helen is a Senior Planner at Planning Plus™ and has over 16 years’ experience in planning
and environmental consulting. Helen's experience includes the preparation of resource consents, compliance monitoring, environmental auditing, community consultation and environmental fund coordination. Her background has provided her with a wide range and thorough understanding of technical and environmental inputs.
Helen holds a Bachelor of Applied Science (Environmental Science) and Bachelor of Business (Management) Conjoint Degree and is an Associate Member of the New Zealand Planning Institute.
DISCLAIMER: The above is a general discussion on indicative resource consenting costs in May 2022. The figures quoted are indicative only and are not GST inclusive. Fees are subject to change at any time. This indication of costs should not take the place of an official quote, your own investigations or without first obtaining specific specialist advice on the cost components involved in a specific project related to a particular site. Planning Plus takes no responsibility for the accuracy of the above figures.
As with all our blogs this information is preliminary in nature only and we have endeavoured to ensure it is correct at the time of writing. It is not intended to substitute for your own investigations or obtaining specific advice on your proposal from professionals. Planning Plus LtdTM is not liable in any way for any errors or omissions.