Can Council reject my application before they even assess it?
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 as speedy consideration as possible. This week’s blog is about Section 88 RMA and why it’s in your best interest to get your resource consent application in order – right from the start.
What is section 88?
The RMA provides legal guidelines and timeframes for councils to assess your application for resource consent, designed to protect you, the applicant from processing delays. 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 than is necessary, resulting in additional delays and costs for your project.
The receipt of an application by Council is the first important step in the resource consent process, which starts the statutory 'clock' ticking. The first check that Council performs is called a “s88 RMA check”.
Section 88 and Schedule 4 of the RMA state what information an application and supporting Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE) must contain to be considered complete and therefore acceptable to be processed. The RMA provides a 10-working day timeframe to assess the application under s88 to determine whether it is complete or return it as “incomplete”.
Purpose of section 88
These requirements reflect the importance of Councils only accepting complete applications to avoid delays in the long run. This is because if your application is poor or incomplete, the council staff can’t assess it- there simply isn’t enough information for them to assess. It’s also your application; you need to provide the information and assessment to support your proposal. It’s not the Council’s role to do this for you. The Council is legally required to assess the application objectively; they can’t be involved in doing assessment for you. The Council in effect “peer review” 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 lodgement with written reasons for the decision. Then, should you decide to lodge the application again, it is treated as a completely new application - with a new, and later, lodgement date. Your relodged application should address all the issues the Council raised.
How to get it right
Your 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):
applicant's name and contact details;
the site owner/occupier's name and contact details (if different from the applicant details);
a description of the proposed activity, usually with a site plan and supporting plans, floorplans, elevations, cross-sections and details of earthworks, tree removal etc.;
the location of the site, including the address, legal description and certificate of titles (including copies of restrictions on the title);
a site description that assesses the natural and physical characteristics of the site and surrounding area;
description of any other activities that are part of the proposal, including any permitted activities or activities addressed by other authorities or under other legislation;
details of any other resource consents required and whether they have been applied for;
an Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE) in such 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. If your proposal is smaller, and more basic, the assessments can be less detailed;
an assessment against RMA Part 2 RMA matters;
an assessment against any relevant provisions of a National Environment Standard, other regulations, National Policy Statement, Regional, Policy Statement and district and regional plans;
any information prescribed by relevant regulations;
date and signature of the applicant or whoever is acting on the applicant's behalf.
The assessment could require input from a number of different specialists, for example Engineers to assess natural hazards, geotechnical, stormwater or wastewater issues. Your Planner can assist you in this regard and will have specialists they commonly work with who they can recommend to you.
If you don’t spend the time to put together a good application, as well as delaying your project you run the risk of Council processing fees being higher. You are charged for s88 checks, and time associated with rejecting the application and relodging a new one. This is time and money not well spent. 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.
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.
Tracy is a Planner with an M.Sc. in Resource Management.
Tracy has worked assisting Senior Planners with the preparation and lodgement of resource consent applications, as well as planning. She also provided support in client liaison, contractor engagement and general communications.
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.