Hooray, you are starting a new project. You are incredibly excited about it. But are your neighbours?
And are they going to cause problems during the process because they don't fully understand what you are planning?
You can fix the potential for obstacles and neighbour drama with Consultation.
What is consultation?
Consultation is the practice of approaching your neighbours and any other potentially affected parties for a chat about your project before you get started on your resource consent application.
Consultation is essentially a process about providing information to interested or affected parties and discussing the application with them. It then allows those people and groups to comment on the proposal, and provide feedback.
People often see consultation as negative. A chance for their plans to be delayed, or changed. But it doesn’t need to be a negative thing. It can actually be a very useful way of hearing other people's ideas, and making good changes to a proposal.
Consultation can be a useful part of the resource consent process. It can help prevent problems from popping up on
projects. How actively you pursue consultation will depend on the scale and significance of the effects of your proposal, and the degree to which it infringes the controls of the relevant District or Regional Plan.
Consultation usually occurs if a person or group may be adversely affected by a proposal. It should be undertaken before a resource consent application is lodged with the Council. It should be taken in an open and honest manner, with a real willingness to change a proposal. For this reason, it's good to start consultation near the start of the development process, to get meaningful input from people before a project is too far advanced.
It is not just the direct neighbours that are affected by development and activities which occur around us. It affects a lot of people in varying degrees. Therefore it can be helpful to consult with surrounding landowners and occupiers as well Mana Whenua and interest groups about what the implications might be.
The benefits of consultation
Consultation allows for good relationship building with neighbours, the community and mana whenua groups. The process can enable other people to provide relevant information on a range of issues which you may not have been aware of. Consultation may also reduce concerns about a development and may make the resource consent process easier.
Environment Court case law has summarised the general guidelines to follow in any consultation:
Fairness is paramount;
Adequate information of the proposal is to be given in a timely manner;
Those consulted must be given a reasonable opportunity to state their views;
Consultation must be conducted with an open mind;
Consultation is a two-way process.
Is consultation mandatory?
In short, the answer to that question is no. While it is good practice to do so, consultation is not required under the Resource Management Act. Consultation is also different to obtaining the written approval of affected parties and notification. Undertaking consultation alone doesn’t mean your application would be non-notified.
If people feel comfortable providing formal written approval to your development as a result of your consultation, then this is very helpful when processing of your resource consent application.
If you choose to undertake consultation on your project, your local Council would usually have a standard form that you can have people can fill in. These are typically available for download from their websites.
If you have any queries about the consultation process, or whether you particular project could benefit from it, then feel free to give us a call at Planning Plus. We will be able to guide you in the process, or even help you undertake it.
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.