So your neighbour is developing their land and has asked you for your approval. Should you give it or not? Most people like to be neighbourly and have a good relationship with the people who they live or work next to. But… in this case you need to look out for yourself and make sure you make a well researched, informed and considered decision.
Why do people ask for written approval? The technical stuff!
As part of assessing a resource consent application, the Council is required to consider parties who are potentially adversely affected. This tends to be owners (or occupiers) of nearby sites. The Council will assess adverse effects on these people and make a conclusion about the scale of these effects: “less than minor, “minor” or “more than minor”. If the effects are concluded to be “less than minor” then your input as a neighbour is not required, and the application is not notified. If effects are “minor” then the application is “limited notified” and those neighbours identified can make a formal submission, attend a Council hearing and have Court appeal rights. The Council notification decision fundamentally changes the route the application takes through the Resource Management Act (RMA) process.
If you do give written approval to a development, the Council is obligated under the RMA to disregard effects on you (s95E RMA), as you have in effect said that you accept those effects and are ok with them. This means that you need to be very sure you are in fact ok with the potential effects on you/your site, as you are signing away your ability to be further involved. A caveat on this is that you can withdraw your approval before the Council notification decision is made (S95E RMA).
So now you know the implications of giving written approval, where to from here?
What is your neighbour doing?
Firstly, you must make sure you understand what your neighbour is doing. Ask to see the plans and reports, ask for them to meet with you to explain what they are doing, maybe their architect, planner or other consultant needs to come to the meeting to help you understand, discuss any concerns you may have and any changes you think are needed to the plans to address these. Make sure you know why the development needs resource consent. What are you giving approval for?
Approach these meetings with an open mind; we always find its better to work together and get a mutually agreeable outcome whenever possible.
Take your time to go over the information, think about it and really consider how it will affect you. If you need help, seek your own independent professional advice. It can give you peace of mind to know that you have had your own professional advice, and you are confident you understand what’s proposed.
Keep in mind thought that there are certain things your neighbour can do on their land as of right, and without your consent. You should be open minded and reasonable in your discussions.
Make sure everything you discuss is shown in the plans or documented in the technical reports/supporting documents. This is an ongoing record of the basis of your approval, and forms part of it.
Usually a Council will have a standard Neighbours Approval Form. On this there is a section for you to note down the plans and reports you have seen- fill this in! This is a formal document and needs to be accurate.
If your neighbour has agreed to do other things in exchange for your approval, such as concreting your driveway, doing some landscaping, building a fence etc, document this also in a separate agreement. Everything needs to be in writing, signed, dated and formalised to avoid any confusion about who’s doing what, when and where. If its something very important to you, you may like to consider getting your lawyer involved.
Usually a developer will ask for written approval from all owners or occupiers. This means you need to discuss the proposal with the others too. Good communication is key!
If your neighbour gets resource consent approved, ask to see a copy of it. The consent will contain conditions that the Council will monitor. Its useful for you to know what will be inspected and what has to happen.
If you have any questions on giving approval for a development, please feel free to give our experienced team a call or e-mail. You can also find some other useful information on the resource consent process in our earlier blogs, available on our website.
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.