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Reduce your Council fees? Yes please!

When developing land, it is critical to understand the costs associated with the project and ways you can manage or reduce them. You may not realise that you do have some control over reducing your Council resource consent processing fees- but how?


With over 35 combined years of experience processing resource consent applications for Councils, let us tell you!


How are costs calculated?

Council’s resource consent processing fees are generally calculated on an hourly- rate basis. This means you are charged for the actual time the Council spends on your application, including from administration staff, planners, engineers, other specialists and team leaders.


When an application is lodged, a deposit fee is paid. The Council will charge additional fees above the deposit where:


  • An application is more complex and requires more time for assessments, or more specialists to be involved; or

  • The application is lacking in quality assessments and/ or information.



In other cases, the Council may charge less than the deposit fee and provide a refund. This is often where a resource consent application is thorough, complete and provides the necessary assessment, in the appropriate detail, and the required information.




Submitting a quality application allows for efficient processing. Auckland Council, for example, allows their staff to adopt parts of the assessments submitted if the assessments are of a high quality, address the relevant issues and are in sufficient detail.


The best way to reduce Council 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 do you do that?


1. Get the right team

It’s important to have the right team of specialists helping you with your project; a team of professionals who have in- depth knowledge of the resource consent process, have the knowledge, skills and experience to provide the necessary assessment to support your specific project.


Keep in mind that not all professionals are suitable for your project- they may be friendly and cheaper, but that doesn’t mean they’ll 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, resource consenting experience, may not be up to date with best practise or all the recent changes in legislation (and there have been A LOT recently!). Choose your planners wisely! You can find out more about this here.





Sometimes people prefer to use a company with a lot of inhouse specialists, as they think that this will be easier. But are you sure that all the specialists in- house are right for you or your project? Do you even know who they are? Do they have the skills and experience you need for your specific project? Will this actually save you time and money in the long run?


Using the right project team is critical, contributing to a positive outcome for your resource consent application, your project overall and minimising your overall costs and processing fees.


2. Do the work upfront

Once you’ve selected the right project team, it’s important they do thorough background investigations to inform the design stage. It’s important to undertake these preliminary investigations first in order to identify the risks at the outset, understand all the site restrictions and opportunities, discuss solutions and minimise redesigning.


This could include assessment of the Record of Title, service availability, natural hazards, site constraints and opportunities along with Auckland Unitary Plan rules, criteria and other provisions that all shape the development. It’s important to have a clear understanding of what the planning documents seek to achieve, the existing environment, your main goals and how they can all fit together. There’s no point in lodging a resource consent application for something that’s never going to be approved or one that doesn’t achieve what you need.


Once the preliminary assessments are completed, more detailed design can begin. Your planner will guide the project team to ensure that their assessments and reports address the relevant Auckland 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 the Council are minimised, saving your time and costs.


3. Get a good application together

The Council staff who will spend the most time on your application will be the Council planner and specialist staff who are assessing it. Another way of reducing your Council processing fees is making sure your application addresses all the relevant issues, potential effects, objectives and policies - the better your application is, the less time Council staff need to spend on it. This reduces your direct Council costs and also enables a more efficient processing time.


Reducing processing time has positive impacts on the overall development timeframe and your holding costs. It also provides more certainty in terms of construction costs, and for sales.


There’s 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, more backwards and forwards communications, and staff double handling your application.

The time for this quickly adds up, and your costs will significantly increase. If you take into account Council staff hourly rates, which can be around $200 per hour in Auckland, 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 the Council will be assessing and is in the correct format, Council staff can adopt the assessments 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!


4. Communication

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 the Council planner. 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. Minimising the backwards and forwards communication reduces everyone’s time and expense.


Want to reduce your fees?

Planning Plus has over 60 years of resource consenting experience, including over 35 years of processing resource consents for Councils. We know the process inside out! We work with other professionals, making sure you have the right person for you and your project. You aren’t tied into using in- house specialists- we get the best team for you and your project.


You can rely on your project being in safe hands with us!


With our 100% success rate, you can trust us with our planning advice. Get in contact with us on hello@planningplus.co.nz or (09) 427 9966. We look forward to hearing from you!


Disclaimer

Please remember that the advice in this blog is general in nature and based on information and advice available at the time of writing. We recommend you get your own planning advice. As with all our blogs this information is preliminary in nature only and we have used our best endeavours to ensure it is correct at the time of writing. It is not intended to substitute for your own investigations or obtaining specific advice from professionals. Planning Plus LtdTM is not liable in any way for any errors or omissions.


© Planning Plus Ltd 2023

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