Getting involved in the resource consent process

Resource consents provide permission to use or develop a natural or physical resource and/or carry out an activity that affects the environment.

This page outlines the stages of the resource consent process and how you can be involved. 

This page relates to proposals where an application for resource consent is made to the local council. Some resource consent applications for nationally significant projects are decided by a board of inquiry or the Environment Court instead of the local council. 

If you would like more information on the process for nationally significant applications see:

An everyday guide to the RMA: National level guidance and processes.

Stages of the resource consent process

The resource consent process can be broken into three main stages (not including any appeal to the Environment Court that may be made following the council’s decision).

Stage one: the applicant prepares their application

The applicant prepares an application for their proposed project or activity. 

Before an applicant lodges their application for resource consent, they may approach you for your written approval. This means that either the applicant or the council thinks you could be adversely affected by the proposal. You have an opportunity at this point to request the applicant makes changes to their proposal to remove or reduce any adverse effects on you.

If you give your written approval, the council must disregard any adverse effects the proposal may have on you when determining whether to notify the application (see below) and whether to grant or refuse resource consent. 

To find out more read Making an application for resource consent

Stage two: the council considers the application

Application checked for completeness and whether any further information required

The applicant then submits their application to council and the application is checked for completeness. 

If the application is deemed to be incomplete, the council can reject the application and return it to the applicant. 

If the application is complete it will be accepted for processing, although the council may still ask the applicant to provide additional information.

Council determines whether the public or affected parties must be notified 

The council considers the scale and significance of any adverse environmental effects associated with the proposed activity. It decides whether the application should be notified to the general public (publicly notified), notified only to affected parties (limited notified) or non-notified. 

As described above, if you have given your written approval to a proposal (and not subsequently withdrawn that approval by informing the council in writing), the council must disregard any adverse effects on you when deciding whether an application must be notified.  

See An everyday guide to the RMA: Your rights as an ‘affected person’.

If the application is publicly notified, anybody can make a submission on the proposal. Notice of the application will be posted in a newspaper and any parties the council decides are affected persons will be served notice individually. The council may also decide that a site notice must be erected and may put a notice on its website. 

Alternatively, the council might decide ‘limited notification’ of the application is appropriate, in which case only those persons it considers to be affected are notified. If you’ve previously given your written approval, you won’t be considered an ‘affected person’. If you are notified of a proposal by the council, you can make a submission on the application.

See An everyday guide to the RMA: Making a submission on a resource consent.

A hearing may be held

If the application is notified and you or any other submitters wish to be heard, the council will hold a hearing to give both submitters and the applicant a chance to explain their views about the application.  

A pre-hearing meeting may be held to clarify or resolve issues before a formal hearing. Such meetings can help save time at the hearing itself, or even avoid the need for a hearing altogether if all the issues of concern to submitters can be resolved.  

As well as arranging a pre-hearing meeting, the council can also refer the applicant and some or all of the submitters to mediation. Mediation can help clarify issues, resolve conflicts and reach agreement without needing to go to a hearing. 

See An everyday guide to the RMA: Appearing at a council resource consent hearing for details about what happens at a hearing and how you can participate as a submitter.

Stage three: the decision

The council then makes a decision as to whether to grant or refuse consent. For public and limited notified applications, the relevant submissions will be considered as part of the decision-making process.  

If you made a submission on the application the council will inform you of its decision. If the application is granted, it will likely be subject to conditions. If you don‘t like the decision or the conditions, you can appeal to the Environment Court.  This must be done within 15 working days of receiving notice of the council’s decision.  

Get professional advice if you’re thinking about appealing the decision. A lawyer, planning consultant or someone with similar professional expertise should be able to tell you if you are likely to be successful. Appeals are often complex and expensive, and need to be well thought out. Getting professional advice early on can save you significant time and costs later.

See An everyday guide to the RMA: Resolving Resource Management Act concerns and An everyday guide to the RMA: Your guide to the Environment Court for more information about making appeals.

Reviewed:
03/12/15