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Good Practice in Resource Consent Processing

 

This section reports on local authority good practice to improve performance in resource management functions. Specifically, it reports on:

  • assistance at the resource consent pre-application phase
  • information needed at the resource consent application phase
  • assessments of environmental effects and notification
  • monitoring processing timeframes
  • customer satisfaction.

The Ministry for the Environment, along with partner organisations Local Government New Zealand, the New Zealand Planning Institute, the New Zealand Institute of Surveyors and the Resource Management Law Association, established a website in 2001 to promote good practice in resource management planning in New Zealand. The website has a substantial section dedicated to promoting good practice in the processing of resource consents. The site can be accessed at www.qualityplanning.org.nz.

Assistance at the resource consent pre-application phase

Local authorities were asked whether they define the environmental effects that must be addressed in consent applications for controlled and restricted discretionary activities in checklists for applicants.

In 2005/2006, 89% (76) of local authorities did define the environmental effects that must be addressed. This compares to 90% of local authorities in 2003/2004 and 81% in 2001/2002.

Knowing exactly which effects a local authority considers need to be addressed can help applicants understand and write an assessment of environmental effects. This can save time for all parties (the applicant, the local authority and submitters) and may lead to the proposed activity having better environmental outcomes.

Information needed at the resource consent application phase

Local authorities were asked whether, before commissioning specialist reports, they provided applicants with the opportunity to discuss or dispute the requirements to provide such further information and/or obtain it themselves.

In 2005/2006, 95% (81) of local authorities did provide applicants with that opportunity before commissioning specialist reports. This compares to 91% local authorities in 2003/2004 and 84% in 2001/2002. This saves applicants paying for a specialist report when the information can be obtained from another source.

Changes made under the Resource Management Amendment Act 2005 mean that local authorities are now required to advise the applicant in writing of the intention to commission a report and the reasons for it. The applicant is required to agree to the report being commissioned.

Assessments of environmental effects and notification

Local authorities were asked to identify mechanisms used to ensure adequate identification and assessment of environment effects in assessment of environmental effects (AEEs), proper notification and identification of affected parties.

In 2005/2006, 76% (65) of local authorities indicated that they follow a structured process to check that environmental effects are adequately identified and addressed in AEEs. This compares to 69% of local authorities in 2003/2004 and 64% in 2001/2002.

In 2005/2006, 61% (52) of local authorities indicated that internal guidance notes or checklists are available to staff on when to notify an application. This compares to 65% of local authorities in 2003/2004 and 73% in 2001/2002.

In 2005/2006, 59% (50) of local authorities indicated that internal guidance notes or checklists are available to staff on how to identify potentially affected parties. This compares to 57% of local authorities in 2003/2004 and 2001/2002.

Figure 1: Good practice in assessment of environmental effects and notification

 

Source: RMA survey of local authorities 2005/2006 and 2003/2004, questions 6.3-6.5; 2001/2002, questions 6.7-6.9; and 1999/2000, questions 6.6-6.8.

  2005/2006 2003/2004 2001/2002 1999/2000
Internal guidance notes or checklists available to staff on how to identify affected parties 59 57 57 4
Internal guidance notes or checklists available to staff on when to notify an application 61 65 73 56
Staff following a set structure to check that environmental effects are adequately identified and addressed in AEEs 76 69 64 64

Monitoring processing timeframes

Local authorities were asked if they monitored and reported on whether resource consents are processed within statutory timeframes.

In 2005/2006, all 85 local authorities indicated that they monitor whether consents are processed within statutory time limits. Eleven advised they do so daily, 25 weekly, 34 monthly and the remainder use other methods (such as quarterly or a combination of timeframes). This compares to 100% monitoring in 2003/2004 and 97% in 2001/2002.

In 2005/2006, 79% (67) of local authorities undertook formal monitoring and reporting of consent processing performance, the results of which are available to ratepayers. This is the same as for 2003/2004, but lower than the 85% in 2001/2002.

Customer satisfaction

Local authorities were asked whether they used satisfaction surveys for resource consent processes. There is no statutory duty to use customer satisfaction surveys, but it is considered good practice in order to obtain feedback on customer perceptions of the resource consent application process.

In 2005/2006, 29% (25) of local authorities used customer satisfaction surveys. This compares to 44% of local authorities in 2003/2004 and 37% in 2001/2002.

Of those 25, zero reported a very dissatisfied level of satisfaction, one dissatisfied, one neutral, 19 satisfied and four very satisfied. Refer to Figure 2 for a comparison with 2003/2004.

Figure 2: Customer satisfaction for 2005/2006 and 2003/2004

Source: RMA survey of local authorities 2005/2006, questions 6.12-6.13; and 2003/2004, questions 6.13-6.14.

  2005/2006 (n=25) 2003/2005 (n=38)
Very dissatisfied 0 0
Dissatisfied 4 0
Neutral 4 11
Satisfied 76 68
Very satisfied 16 21