Data limitations and local authority practices by topic area

This page outlines the limitations of National Monitoring System data for 2014/15 and 2015/16 by topic area.

Plan-making

Efficiency and effectiveness monitoring

  • Local authorities may be at different stages of the five-year reporting cycle, so the National Monitoring System data cannot be used to determine whether a local authority has failed to make public the results of their efficiency and effectiveness monitoring in accordance with section 35(2A) of the RMA.
  • The Ministry has not assessed whether the efficiency and effectiveness monitoring undertaken by local authorities fulfils the requirements of sections 35(2)(b), and 35(2A) of the RMA.

Drivers of plan-making processes

  • An individual plan-making process may have more than one driver and address more than one subject matter.

National instruments driving plan-making processes

  • An individual plan-making process may relate to more than one national instrument.

Timeframes and costs associated with plan-making processes

  • Data on costs associated with plan-making processes was not provided by all local authorities. In some cases figures provided were a local authority’s best estimate of the costs of the process.
  • It is not clear whether costs provided are inclusive or exclusive of GST.
  • The National Monitoring System did not seek data on local authorities' use of section 37 of the RMA to extend the specified time period for plan-making.
  • Local authorities had the option to provide commentary on their plan-making processes. While commentary was not provided by all local authorities, it highlighted a number of factors that could affect the time and costs associated with plan-making processes. ​These factors include, but are not limited to:
    • local authority resourcing
    • subject matter (eg, technical amendments are likely to be less costly and take less time than the development of rules for water allocation) 
    • scope of the plan-making processes (eg, development of a new plan versus a change to a section of an operative plan)
    • delays to align with other plan-making processes, including the processes of other local authorities
    • level of public interest (including number of submitters to plan-making processes).

Resource Consents

Resource consent ‘bundling’

When multiple resource consents are required for an activity, it is common practice for local authorities to process these applications concurrently under the umbrella of one application; known colloquially as a ‘bundled’ application. The intent of bundling is to enable an integrated and more efficient assessment of the activity and any effects and to provide improved customer service.

Local authorities record information on bundled applications in various ways. This variability affects the quality of the data collected via the National Monitoring System for resource consents across the board. For example, a local authority may report separately on all of the resource consents bundled into a single application. This means that one activity would have a number of rows of data, each considered within our data analysis as a separate resource consent. Local authorities may provide one line of data for charges on bundled consents, while others average charges over all of the overlapping consents. This distorts the data pertaining to the costs of a resource consent.

Pre-application meetings

  • The RMA Survey requested data on the number of pre-application meetings held by local authorities, whether or not that meeting resulted in the lodgement of an application for a resource consent.
  • Under the National Monitoring System, data was sought in relation to pre-application meetings that led to the submission of an application for a resource consent.
  • Therefore, the National Monitoring System 2014/15 and 2015/16 data pertaining to pre-application meetings may not be directly comparable with RMA Survey data.

Receipt of applications and determination of ‘completeness’

  • Several local authorities do not record all consent applications at the time that they enter the building. They are often only entered into their system/database once they are formally received (eg, when they have had their pre-acceptance check and are deemed ‘complete’). 
  • Several local authorities do not undertake a pre-acceptance check for completeness and just formally accept every application that is received. These local authorities often do so as they consider that this provides a good customer experience. This is not considered best practice as noted in A guide to section 88 and Schedule 4 of the Resource Management Act 1991 and also on the Quality Planning website
  • If another application is lodged for the same activity for which an earlier application was determined as incomplete, it should be treated as a new application (as per section 88(4) of the RMA) and does not necessarily need to link to the earlier application. As a result, the Ministry is unable to accurately conclude that determining an application to be incomplete is a deterrent to an applicant undertaking a development.

Extensions of resource consent application processing time

Variance on how section 37 of the RMA is applied by local authorities is evident, including in relation to administration.

  • Section 37 enables local authorities to extend timeframes specified in the RMA if the applicant agrees or there are special circumstances. However, some local authorities extend timeframes at the request of an applicant.
  • Local authorities applied section 37 extensions at various stages of the resource consent process, including on or just after the lodgement date. A number of local authorities provided dates for the application of a section 37 extension that were the same or after the date the decision on the resource consent was issued.
  • For the 2014/15 National Monitoring System data provided:
    • 25 local authorities (32%) applied at least one section 37 extension on the same day the decision was issued
    • 17 local authorities (22%) applied at least one section 37 extension after the decision was issued.
  • For the 2015/16 National Monitoring System data provided:
    • 35 local authorities (45%) applied at least one section 37 extension on the same day the decision was issued
    • 23 local authorities (29%) applied at least one section 37 extension after the decision was issued.
  • There may be instances where a local authority is not accurately recording the date the section 37 extension was officially applied:
  • For the 2014/15 National Monitoring System data, 24 local authorities have ‘data not available’ for at least one portion of the section 37 extension related data requested (eg, the date the section 37 was applied, or the number of working days the extension was for, or the reason for the extension).
  • For the 2015/16 National Monitoring System data, 34 local authorities have ‘data not available’ for at least one portion of the section 37 extension related data requested (eg, the date the section 37 was applied, or the number of working days the extension was for, or the reason for the extension).

Resource consents processed within statutory time limits

  • The ways local authorities calculate statutory working days vary.
  • There appears to be errors in the administration of some resource consents (eg, a resource consent is identified as a land use consent when the description of the activity relates to a ground water take).
  • The working days that lapse while a local authority awaits full payment of an administrative charge may be excluded from the calculation of statutory processing days. However, some local authorities continue to process the application during this period. This may result in zero statutory working days lapsing during the processing of a resource consent.
  • There are instances where either no data on a process or partial data is provided by a local authority. Some local authorities have provided estimates for certain responses rather than actual data. For example for the 2014/15 data, Thames-Coromandel District Council were unable to provide data on statutory timeframes for resource consents for the majority of applications they processed. Therefore, the figure of 4% of applications processed on time doesn't reflect the Council's actual performance.

Charges for resource consents

  • It is not always obvious when consents have been bundled, so it is difficult to determine the total charged to the applicant.     
  • Where a resource consent was processed in conjunction with another, local authorities were often unable to extract figures for deposits, fixed fees and/or total charges on an individual consent basis. In these situations local authorities were asked to average the fixed fee or deposit and total charges over all jointly processed consents. This has distorted the data in relation to total charges.
  • A number of consents had $0 as their deposit and total charged. In certain instances local authorities may waive the fees. However this may not explain all instances of $0.
  • Fixed fees are charges that cover the total cost of an application and which are levied at the start of the process. Fixed charges are not supplemented by additional actual and reasonable charges once the consent process is complete. In comparison, deposits are charges levied at the start of the application process and are supplemented by additional actual and reasonable charges once the resource consent process is complete. It appears that some local authorities may not understand the difference between a ‘fixed fee’ and a ‘deposit’.
  • For the 2014/15 National Monitoring System data, some local authorities provided data GST inclusive whilst others excluded GST. In some cases it could not be verified whether the costs to applicants were inclusive or exclusive of GST. This affects the accuracy and comparability of the data.
  • For the 2015/16 National Monitoring System data, some local authorities provided data GST inclusive whilst others excluded GST. For consistency, all costs have been correctly converted to be GST inclusive. However, in some cases it could not be verified whether the costs to applicants were inclusive or exclusive of GST. This affects the accuracy and comparability of the data.

Resource consent applications subject to discounts

  • Prior to December 2017, the 2014/15 data was incorrectly displaying ‘average discount’ values within the online visualisation Data tool. These values have now been corrected within the Data tool.
  • For the 2014/15 National Monitoring System data provided: There were 901 instances where a local authority stated ‘not applicable’ or ‘data not available’ in response to whether a resource consent was processed within the statutory timeframe.
  • For the 2015/16 National Monitoring System data provided: There were 230 instances where a local authority stated ‘not applicable’ or ‘data not available’ in response to whether a resource consent was processed within the statutory timeframe.
  • Several local authorities were unable to provide information pertaining to charges. One reason for this was that some local authorities' financial systems were not linked to their resource consenting systems.
  • Some local authorities provided GST inclusive data, others excluded GST. For consistency, all costs have been converted to be GST inclusive. However, in some cases it could not be verified whether the costs to applicants were inclusive or exclusive of GST. This affects the accuracy and comparability of the data.
  • It appears that not all discounts provided to applicants were discounts in relation to the Resource Management (Discount on Administrative Charges) Regulations 2010.
  • Many local authorities bundled charges across more than one resource consent. This occurred in a variety of ways, for example:
    • charges were averaged across all the resource consents within the bundle  
    • charges were recorded against one of the resource consents within the bundle and $0 was recorded against the other resource consent(s) that completed the bundle.

Complaints, monitoring, compliance and enforcement

State of the Environment monitoring and reporting

Section 35 of the RMA does not specify a reporting cycle or require local authorities to publish the results of State of the Environment monitoring. Based upon the information collected through the National Monitoring System, it is therefore unclear whether or not local authorities are carrying out monitoring in accordance with section 35(2)(a). 

Section 35(3) does however require a local authority to keep reasonably available at its principal office, information which is relevant to the administration of policy statements and plans, the monitoring of resource consents and current issues relating to the environment of the area.

Resource consent monitoring

  • Local authorities did not define the term ‘monitoring event’ consistently.
  • There are some local authorities that did not correctly identify and record some resource consents as requiring monitoring but subsequently monitored these. Therefore, the number of consents that individual local authorities recorded as monitored may exceed the number recorded as requiring monitoring.
  • Some local authorities provided a response of 'Data Not Available'.

Maori participation

Iwi/hapū management plans

  • A single iwi/hapū management plan may be lodged with more than one local authority depending on the extent of the rohe of the iwi/hapū.

Council resourcing: the number of staff working on plans, processing resource consents, complaints, monitoring and enforcement

The 2014/15 data does not include staff resourcing for the preparation of policy statements and plans, changes and variations. However, the 2015/16 data does include such staff resourcing. Therefore, comparisons on this data cannot be made between 2014/15 and 2015/16.

Reviewed:
14/12/17