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Say What? The importance of good communication in the resource consent process

The old saying “communication is key” is true even for resource consent applications. Communication can be used to help strengthen relationships, business partnerships, social interactions and also helps improve planning outcomes if you’re considering development on your property- whether that is subdividing, building a new house or even building a new deck!

Whether you’re a one time or a repeat customer with your local Council, having effective communication is an essential tool to ensuring a successful planning outcome.

Why good communications are important

If everyone was able to understand exactly what you were trying to say each and every time you were communicating, you would certainly encounter less confusion and misunderstanding in your interactions. Unfortunately, clear, useful communication isn’t always simple or easy.

When engaging with council there is often a lot of jargon and confusion due to different levels technical understanding and capabilities. Having clear communication during the resource consent process improves outcomes, makes the process easier and can often make the entire process more positive for everyone involved.

Generally following the simple steps below will help improve your communication with council during the resource consent process:

1. Do I know what I want from council?

Being clear on what advice or outcome you want is important as this gives Council a clear directive on what information and services they can offer you. Make sure you’re speaking to the right person; we often see advice being given inadvertently from the wrong person and being interpreted in the wrong way. For example, a question about what requires building consent being interpreted to mean no consents are needed, when in fact a resource consent is needed. Usually, Council’s will have a duty planner/ planning advisor who can assist with basic questions, and for something more complicated and detailed you can arrange a pre-application meeting with Council Planners to discuss a potential resource consent.

2. When should I engage with council?

Generally speaking, you should communicate with the Council as early as possible so there are no surprises later down the track. Once you have decided what information you want from council, you should determine at what stage you require input/further communications from your local council team. Your Planner can assist you with this and would usually guide you through these initial investigation and communication phases. These initial discussions can shape the development and affect how it moves through the resource consent process, so its important to spend the time at this stage to get things right.

3. Do I have the technical capability to undertake the process?

It’s important to recognise your own technical skill set when engaging with Council. This is important as often a lack of legislative or technical understanding of Council processes, the planning frameworks and plan provisions can cause issues. Do you know what the Council means in the questions they’re asking? Do you know how to respond in a way that addresses those concern, in the right planning context? There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging you’re not an expert on the resource consent process; in the same way as Planners aren’t skilled at drawing detailed plans, architects are not usually specialists in the resource consent process. There’s nothing wrong with that- but it’s important to acknowledge that professional skills are best utilised on different parts of the land development process.

Remember also that the Council’s role is to objectively assess your application not to look for ways to improve the application or make it supportable in planning terms; they can’t help you with your assessments or responses. You need your own specialists to help with your application.

4. Managing communications during the resource consent process

Remember that we are all human and trying our best to get the right outcomes. Sometimes it can be confusing and frustrating when engaging with council due to time delays or different views on the planning framework and effects. People often have different priorities.

Engaging the right technical experts early on in the process is helpful in saving time and costs and minimising communication issues that may arise during the resource consent process. It’s always important to communicate in a professional and courteous manner; even if you’re frustrated no one wins from being rude.

Planners are specialists in the resource consent process and can manage communication with the Council to help achieve a positive and stress-free outcome for you. So, what role does a planner play?

Planners- what do they do?

Planning is one of those professions that none of your friends ever really understand. Even when you say “town planner” you still get lots of blank stares. A planner plays a vital role in ensuring effective communication with you, your other specialists and the Council. through preparing resource consents and managing any development onsite. We are a technical expert in resource management but also council engagement and communication.

A Planner has a thorough understanding of resource management legislation and how the system works, which enables them to manage the resource consenting process to ensure it runs smoothly and positively. Planners can also advise you if your project is worth pursuing, saving you time and money potentially barking up the wrong tree.

A planner can help guide you through the complicated processes involved with development and inputs from your local council. Whether it’s a new build, creating a business premise or subdivision you need expert advice on how the process works. A Planner can help to navigate this process and ensure council is accurately involved in the process in the correct way, thus improving planning outcomes.

More information?

At Planning Plus we can help navigate you through all the legislative requirements. At the beginning of the resource consent process, we will assess the suitability of a site for development. We would review the specific plan provisions and rules that would apply to your proposal, give you advice on how to develop the land, reduce your risk and communicate with other relevant experts required on your behalf. It is important to do as much research as possible at the beginning of the process to fully understand the suitability of the project so that when we engage with council, everyone is fully informed. Our knowledge and expertise can help you make an informed decision on the project before issues arise and before you’ve committed a lot of money and time to it.

If a resource consent is required, we can prepare the application for you, lodge it with Council, and represent you throughout the process. In effect we will manage the process for you, making sure a high-quality resource consent application is lodged, and professional communications with the Council are undertaken. This saves you time and money and makes the whole process more stress- free for you!

Do you have a project in mind, but you aren’t sure where to start? Feel free to contact us for some friendly advice on the first steps. You can also check out more blogs on our website or download our free e- guide on the resource consent process.

Brittney Sutherland is an experienced RMA professional, having worked both in processing and lodging resource consent applications. Brittney is passionate about improving the resource consent process and our clients experience.


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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