Receipt of applications and determination of ‘completeness’

This page reports on the receipt of resource consent applications and determination of ‘completeness’. 

RMA requirements

For local authorities, the first step in the resource consent process is the ‘completeness check’. This is an important step as it helps to identify and clarify early on if any necessary information is lacking. 

By only accepting complete applications, local authorities increase the likelihood that consents lodged for processing can be progressed efficiently and effectively, without the delays associated with substantial further information requests.

Changes to section 88 of the RMA (introduced by the Resource Management Amendment Act 2013) came into effect on 3 March 2015. Under the RMA (as amended in 2013), if a local authority determines that a resource consent application is incomplete they must return it to the applicant with reasons for the determination. Up until 3 March 2015 local authorities had the option of whether or not to return an application if it was deemed incomplete.


  • There were 1,848 instances where a local authority determined that an application was incomplete at the time of lodgement under section 88(3) of the RMA and did not process the application.
  • Prior to the 2013 RMA amendments coming into force on 3 March 2015, an average of 140 applications were determined incomplete under section 88(3) per month. Approximately 180 applications per month were determined incomplete post the 2013 RMA amendments coming into effect.
  • The number of instances where a local authority made a decision that an application was incomplete appears to be decreasing overall (see Table 1 below). However, it should be noted that 24 territorial authorities and one unitary authority (32 per cent) do not have data available in relation to applications determined incomplete under section 88(3).  As this data is unavailable, it cannot be concluded that there is a general downwards trend.

Download the complete dataset for resource consents [Excel, 16,375 KB].

Table 1: Number of resource consent applications determined incomplete under section 88(3)





Section 88 applications

Section 127 applications

Regional councils





Territorial authorities





Unitary authorities














Source: National Monitoring System 2014/15, RMA Survey 2010/11 and 2012/13

Note: Data for 2010/11 and 2012/13 excludes section 127 resource consent applications.

Limitations and local authority practices

  • 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.

See the Act

For more information on the RMA related to this page see the following sections of the Act on the New Zealand Legislation website.