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Submissions- What, when and how?

So, you think you want to make a submission on a council process? That might be for a notified plan change to a District or Regional Plan, a resource consent application, or a notification of a Notice of Requirement for a future designation. Whatever the council process it is, if you would like to make a submission then here is what you need to know.


This blog is part of our series related to designations and Notices of Requirement but has information relating to resource consent applications also. If you’re interested in the designation process, you may find this blog helpful.


In most cases, making a submission is the only way you can stay involved in the formal plan change/ resource consent/ Notice of Requirement process. If you’re interested, you should make a formal submission. The submission doesn’t have to be overly technical, and depending on your concerns, you can write it yourself. However, if you have concerns about a technical issue, such as noise for example, or if you have strong opinions on the proposal overall, you may like to engage a specialist to assist you.


The Resource Management Act (RMA) provides several ways for you to get involved in council processes and be involved in decisions that affect the environment. Making a submission on a proposal is an effective (and important) way to get involved with council process and decisions.



Before you make a submission

If you’re thinking about whether to make a submission on a notified planning proposal, the following steps are important before you make your submission:

  1. Study the documents provided by the council. Particularly, the proposal itself, the planning assessments and any other background reports. Also review the plans and confirm if this affects any areas you are interested in.

  2. Make sure you understand what is being proposed and why. Proposals can be complex, with lots of information and assessments to review and understand. Set aside time to review the documents before you write your submission. If you have any questions, ask the council to ensure you have a clear understanding of what is being proposed and how this relates to you and any area of interest. You can also engage professionals, such as planners, to help you to understand how you may be affected and in writing your submission.

  3. Ask yourself what the proposal will mean to you in practice. For example: What will be the actual effect on you and the things you might like to do, or an operation you run or are planning? What will be the wider effects on the environment of allowing such a proposal? Are these of a concern to you?

  4. Always discuss the proposal with council officers or your planning consultant if there are any matters you don’t understand. They can help you understand the project, what’s proposed and help you identify which sections of the proposal you may need to look at in detail.


Preparing a submission

After you have reviewed the documents and understood what’s proposed, you are ready and informed to make a submission. Great! Here are some tips for writing a submission.

  • A clear well-written submission is more effective than an unstructured one. Think about what you want to say, what’s most important to you, and plan out your submission.

  • As a submitter you can support, oppose or be neutral (with supporting information) in relation to the proposal. It is important to state this clearly.

  • The council will consider different concerns and values expressed by submitters. Providing facts supported by specialist evidence will help you build a strong case.

  • An effective submission will state what effects you think the proposal will have, and why you support or oppose the proposal.

  • Clearly state any issues you might have about the possible effects, and how you would like these to be addressed.

  • If you think that the effects could be addressed through a change, recommend the change, outline what that change is and specify why you feel this is needed.

  • If you think a proposal could go ahead with certain conditions to manage specific effects, state what you think the conditions should be/ what they should require and why.

  • If you think the effects of the proposal are so serious that it should not go ahead, state what you think these effects are and why.

  • Include any maps, diagrams and professional opinions that support your submission.

  • Clearly state if you would like to be heard at a hearing. You don’t have to speak at a hearing, although it can highlight what you write in your submission, but your submission is just as valid if you don’t speak.


Submissions need to be clear, concise and stick to the facts regarding the proposal. A few things not to put in your submission include:

  • Any personal feelings you have about the council, or its officers.

  • Refer to issues or effects that are not related to the proposal you are submitting on.

  • Raise matters that are not within the council’s control.

  • Raise the issue of your business being affected by a competitor. Trade competition is not a valid issue for consideration under the RMA.

A submission (or part of your submission) may be struck out if the council is satisfied that at least one of the following applies to the submission (or part of the submission):

  • It is frivolous or vexatious.

  • It discloses no reasonable or relevant case.

  • It would be an abuse of the hearing process to allow the submission (or the part) to be taken further.

  • It contains offensive language.

  • It is supported only by material that states its independent expert evidence but has been prepared by a person who is not independent or who does not have sufficient specialised knowledge or skill to give expert advice on the matter.


Specific note about Notice of Requirement Submissions:

With Notice of Requirement submissions these must clearly state which Notice of Requirement you are submitting on, as these may be notified in bundles with a number of different individual Notice of Requirements being part of a wider project. This is the case for the bundles of Notices of Requirement notified in Auckland in March and April 2023 (from Auckland Transport and waka Kotahi). If you want to submit on issues raised by different Notice of Requirements, you must submit on each one individually.


Form of the submission

Submissions must be in the correct form (using the specific council form) and on the correct proposal you are specifically concerned about. These council forms can be found on the council website, specifically on the notification page on the specific project. Most councils these days have online submission forms which should be linked from the notification page of the project which contains the documents. Make sure you always click the submit button at the end once you have filled out all the required information and uploaded any files you wish to include.


Lodging a submission

Now that you have clearly articulated your position on the proposal and written your submission, it’s time to lodge it with the council.


One option for this is to use the online form as noted above. There will also be other methods of being able to submit if the online form is not for you. You can send your submission by email, post or hand- deliver to council before the closing date and time.

If choosing to send your submission by post, try and send your submission well before the closing date and time to ensure it arrives at the council in time.


If you have submitted on an application for resource consent or a Notice of Requirement you are required to serve a copy of your submission on the applicant (if its for a resource consent) or the Requiring Authority (if for a Notice of Requirement). The address for service should be clear on the notification documents on the council website, but if not please get in contact with your council to clarify.


It is important to remember that all submissions are made public.


After lodging your submission

Once you have lodged your submission with the council and serving it on any resource consent applicant or Requiring Authority (if required), then you will usually receive an automated email (if lodging online or emailing) which says your submission has been received. It takes some time for submissions to be reviewed by council officers and a hearing date to be set but keep an eye out for email communication detailing these dates from the council. In particular if you have said you wish to speak at a hearing then the council will be liaising with you around hearing dates and times.


If you are going to be speaking at a hearing, follow our next blog around the hearing process.


Need help with your development?

If you’re thinking about developing your land, give our specialist team a call. With experience in urban, commercial, coastal and rural development we can assist with all types of land development. We have extensive industry contacts and will manage inputs from other specialists making the process easier and faster for you. Give us a call to discuss your ideas. You can contact us on hello@planningplus.co.nz or (00) 427 9966.



Charlotte Vellinga is a Senior Planner at Planning Plus® and has over 10 years’ experience in resource management, working in both local government and the private sector. This includes time spent at Auckland Council as a Senior Planner where she processed a wide variety of resource consent applications. Charlotte has extensive experience in the resource management field including residential, rural, commercial, heritage and coastal development as well as subdivisions ranging from small to large scale.

Charlotte holds a Bachelor of Planning with Honours from the University of Auckland and is an Intermediate Member of the New Zealand Planning Institute.


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.


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