Making an application for resource consent

This page explains the stages in making an application for resource consent. It includes how to find out if you need resource consent, how to gather information for your application, and appearing at a hearing. 

This page relates to proposals where an application for resource consent is made to the local council. Some resource consent applications for nationally significant proposals 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 procedures.

Setting the scene: council plans

The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) requires councils to create plans that help them manage the environment. 

These plans contain all sorts of rules and conditions for activities that might affect the environment. Plans, usually through rules, state whether an activity is permitted (meaning you can do it as of right) or whether it requires resource consent. When the council considers your application for resource consent, it follows the processes set out in the RMA. 

For more information on plans see Council plans and where to find them

For advice on how to get involved in the preparation of these plans see Getting involved in council plans and plan preparation processes.

Before you apply for resource consent

Whether you’ll need resource consent, and what type of consent you’ll need, depends on the type of activity you want to do and how it’s classified in your local district or regional plan. 

Before you start any activity that might affect your neighbours, your wider community or your environment, contact your local council or check out the regional or district plan for your area. This will be available on the council website or at their offices. 

Council staff will tell you whether you need resource consent for the activity you are proposing, how your activity is classified in the plan, and what type of consent you need. They will also tell you what information you need to provide and how long the process is likely to take and cost.  They may also tell you whether you need to apply for resource consent from both the regional and district/city council (or they will refer you to the other council). 

For more on applying for resource consent see An everyday guide to the RMA: Applying for a resource consent.

Stage one: preparing your application (information gathering)

Once you’ve learned that you need to apply for resource consent, you’ll need to start gathering information so that you can prepare your application accurately.

You will need to complete an application form. You can get the application form from your council or online from the council’s website. 

Preparing an assessment of environmental effects (AEE)

Your application must be accompanied by an assessment of environmental effects (AEE), which describes all the environmental effects of your proposed activity and the ways that any negative effects are to be mitigated (reduced).  The amount of information you need to include in the AEE will depend on how significant the environmental effects of your proposed activity will be.

Matters that should be included in an AEE are outlined in Schedule 4 of the Resource Management Act [New Zealand Legislation website]. 

District or regional plans may also provide information on what and how much detail you need to include. Your application must also include any plans (drawings) and/or specialist reports relevant to the proposed activity. 

See A guide to preparing a basic assessment of environmental effects

Consulting affected parties

While you’re not required under the RMA to consult anyone, it is good practice to identify who might be interested in or affected by your proposal. You may like to talk to those people about your application to help the process run smoothly and help identify potential effects and ways in which those effects may be reduced.  Your AEE needs to include a record of any people you’ve consulted about your proposed activity.

To find out more read An everyday guide to the RMA: Consultation for resource consent applicants.

Pre-application meetings

Some councils offer pre-application meetings. These meetings can be a good opportunity to get advice on what information you will need to provide with your application, including what specific issues or effects (including effects on other people) will need to be addressed. 

Engaging in a pre-application meeting and following the advice given can increase the likelihood that your application will be considered complete and accepted for processing by the council. These meetings can also reduce the likelihood that you will be asked to provide additional information after your application has been accepted.  

Getting help from a professional

You may wish to engage a resource management planning consultant to help with the preparation of your application. These consultants can also manage the application process on your behalf.

See Where to get information and advice about RMA applications and submissions for information about professionals you can contact.

Stage two: the council considers your application 

Once you’ve prepared your application and lodged it with the council, a council officer will check to make sure that you have paid your application fee and let you know if anything more is needed at that stage. 

The council can reject the application and return it to you within 10 working days after the application was first lodged if the application is incomplete. The council may also ask you to supply further information once your application has been accepted.

Notification decision

Once your application has been accepted, the council considers whether it needs to be notified in order to give people the opportunity to make a submission on your proposal. 

When making a decision on whether to notify the application the council will consider:

  • the scale and significance of any adverse environmental effects associated with your proposal 
  • whether you have obtained the written approval of any affected persons
  • what any relevant national environmental standard and plan requires. 

Based on this assessment the council decides whether to:

  • notify the application to the general public (publicly notified)
  • notify it only to affected parties (who have not already given their written approval) (limited notified) 
  • not to notify it at all (non-notified).

Most resource consent applications are processed on a non-notified basis and are not open to submissions. 

If the application is publicly notified, anybody can make a submission on the application. Notice of the application will be posted in a newspaper and any affected persons will be served notice individually. 

In the case of a limited notified application, only those persons notified by the council can make a submission on the application.  If someone has previously given their written approval to your proposal, they won’t be considered an affected person and will not be notified of the application. 

A hearing may be held

The council may hold a hearing if you or a submitter requests one or if the council considers one is necessary. Hearings are usually held if an application is notified, but may also be held for non-notified applications. A hearing allows you and anyone who has made a submission to explain their views about the application. 

Pre-hearing meetings can be held, which can be a useful way to try and 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. 

To find out more read An everyday guide to the RMA: Appearing at a resource consent hearing

Stage three: your resource consent is approved or declined 

Substantive decision 

The council will consider all the submissions it receives (for notified applications), together with the application, and make a decision whether or not to grant the resource consent. The provisions for deciding whether to approve or decline an application are in Section 104 of the RMA.

You will get a letter in the mail telling you whether your application has been approved or declined.

If the application is approved, it will likely be subject to conditions. If you don‘t like the decision or the conditions, you can object to the council or appeal to the Environment Court.

You can start work after the appeals period (15 working days after of notice of the decision has been received) if no appeals have been lodged (either by you or anyone who made a submission on your application), or after any appeals have been settled. (Bear in mind that, depending on your activity, you may also require another consent or consents (eg, building consents) in order to undertake your activity.)

See An everyday guide to the RMA: Your guide to the Environment Court for information about appearing at the court.

Reviewed:
04/12/15