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Section 88 - Tips for Success

Updated: Feb 20

The process of submitting an application for a Resource Consent can be a daunting one, but if you submit a good application you’ll not only be complying with your legal requirements under the Resource Management Act (RMA) but also ensuring your application gets processed quickly. Getting your application accepted under s88 of the RMA is the first step in this process.

What is a section 88?

Section 88 and Schedule 4 of the RMA states what information an application and the supporting Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE) must contain to be considered complete and therefore acceptable to be processed and accepted under section 88 RMA. The RMA provides a 10-working day timeframe to assess the application under section 88 to determine whether it is “complete” or return it as “incomplete”.

The RMA provides legal guidelines and timeframes for councils to assess your application for resource consent. However, if you don’t provide enough initial information for the Council to begin processing your application, it could end up taking a lot longer to go through the consenting process, resulting in additional delays and costs for your project. Its important that you spend time upfront, getting your resource consent application right.

Purpose of section 88

The purpose of section 88 check is to make sure your application is full and complete to avoid delays in the long run; it needs to have enough information so the Council can understand what’s proposed and a certain level of supporting assessment. If your application doesn’t provide all the required information, the council staff can’t assess your proposal. Some applications are so poor that Council staff can’t even understand what your proposal is; this doesn’t help anyone and ends up costing you more time and money in the long run.

The Council is legally required to assess the application and documents submitted in an objective way; they can’t do the assessment for you. The Council in effect “peer review’s” what you have submitted, so you need to put in effort at the start, provide specialists assessment where required, and supporting information.

If a Council determines that the application is incomplete, they will contact you within 10 working days of you lodging it, with written reasons for the decision. Should you decide to lodge the application again, it is treated as a completely new application - with a new, and later, lodgement date. Your re-lodged application should address all the issues the Council raised, and all the items noted in Schedule 4 of the RMA

How can I get my application accepted under section 88?​

In order to ensure an efficient resource consent process, you should focus on getting all the necessary information from the right professionals at the beginning of the process and provide this to Council when you lodge the application. This includes all technical reports, assessments and plans that are prepared by suitably qualified persons. If you aren’t a specialist, don’t try to be- your assessments won’t be accepted. What may seem to be a cost saving at the start, will only waste time and money in the long run with Council processing delays and extra processing costs.

A resource consent application should provide an assessment against all the matters identified in Schedule 4 of the RMA. A planner will make sure your aware of all the relevant statutory and planning requirements and we recommend that you engage a planner to assist with your resource consent application.

You should provide as much information you can at the beginning of the process. The checklist below is a good example of what should be provided.

Section 88- What should I include?​

Your resource consent application would usually be accepted if you complete the appropriate application form and the following information is provided (but please note this list doesn’t include every possible requirement for every application type- its more generic in nature). Before lodging an application, make sure you have:

Applicant information

  • Provide the name and contact details of person applying for the consent.

  • Provide the site address and a copy of the certificate of titles that is less than three months old (including copies of restrictions on the title). You can obtain a copy from Land Information New Zealand.

Note: a review of the certificate of title is essential as there can be additional restrictions which should be reviewed at the beginning of any resource consent process. Take a look at our blog on certificate of title to find out more.

  • Have you undertaken a property file review for your site? The property file can usually be obtained from your local council. It details council records including resource consents, building consents and any other information council has on your property.

Proposal information

  • A description of the proposed activity identifying all the physical and legal works requiring resource consent under the application.

  • A site description that assesses the natural and physical characteristics of the site and surrounding area.

  • Undertake a natural hazards check on the site and identify if there are any flooding hazards, overland flowpaths or known unstable land.  This may require additional technical reports or considerations. 

  • Check Council and other organisation records (such as Heritage New Zealand) to identify any cultural or heritage sites on your property. 

  • Provide a site plan which details all proposed physical works. You should also provide all supporting documents such as elevation plans, floor plans, site plans, cross-sections and details of earthworks, tree removal, new driveways, parking, access etc. All plans should be to scale and provide a suitable level of detail to enable a Council processing planner to understand what’s proposed.

  • Provide all relevant technical reports relating to the application and reasons for consent. Your Planner will be able to guide you on what other technical assessment and reports will be required. This could include a geotechnical, traffic, arboricultural, ecological, acoustic or archaeological assessments. Usually your Planner would co-ordinate all these specialists inputs for you.

Prepare an Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE)

The AEE would usually be prepared by a Planner.

  • The AEE must detail any resource consents required and what rules are infringed. This requires an assessment of all relevant planning rules and standards under all the applicable planning documents.

  • The AEE must provide an assessment of potential environmental effects (positive and negative). The effects that are relevant, the ‘scope” of the assessment, vary depending on what’s proposed and the planning provisions that apply. Your Planner can guide you on this.

  • The AEE must also assess potential adverse effects on people. Usually this is the owners/ occupiers of nearby properties, but it can also be organisations such as NZTA or local iwi. This part of the assessment required careful consideration. If you have written approval from any party (in particular neighbours), this should be detailed in the AEE. 

  • The AEE must also assess the application against objectives and policies of the relevant planning documents.

  • The AEE must be a level of detail that corresponds to the scale and significance of the effects from the proposed activity and which addresses the matters outlined in clauses 6 and 7 Schedule 4 of the RMA. This essentially means that if you have a large, complicated proposal your assessments need to be detailed and thorough. You will likely require different specialists to assist. If your proposal is smaller, and more basic, the assessments can be less detailed.

  • An assessment against any relevant provisions of a National Environment Standard, other regulations, National Policy Statement, Regional, Policy Statement and district and regional plans is also required.  These are not always relevant; your Planner would usually undertake this assessment for you and can guide you on what’s relevant for your project.

The AEE could require input from a number of different specialists, for example Engineers to assess natural hazards, geotechnical, stormwater or wastewater issues.  These specialist reports would form part of the resource consent application, and your Planner will refer to them in the AEE and put the specialists’ assessment in the context of the plan provisions and the RMA. Your Planner can assist you relation to what specialist inputs you’ll need.

Why does it matter?

If you don’t spend the time to put together a good resource consent application, as well as delaying your project you run the risk of Council processing fees being higher. You are charged for time associated with section 88 checks, including rejecting the application and relodging a new one. This is time and money wasted. Council may also not understand what’s proposed or the potential environmental effects, leading to longer processing times, higher costs and potentially bad outcomes. We always recommend putting in the effort upfront, to make the process easier and straightforward in the long run.

Need help?

If you need some advice about preparing a comprehensive resource consent application, get in contact with our helpful team. You can see that getting an application right can be complicated, and this is where a Planner can help you. At Planning Plus, we deal with this process every day and know it inside out. We can manage the application process for you, taking away the stress from what can become a difficult process.


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.

© Planning Plus Ltd 2024

Brittney Sutherland is a qualified RMA planner graduated from Auckland University with first-class honours.

Brittney has experience in land development work and has also worked processing and lodgement of resource consent applications. She also provided project management and general communications.

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