This is the eighth Resource Management Act Survey of Local Authorities. The survey was run annually until 1999/2000 and is now run every two years. This report covers activity in the financial year 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006, referred to in the report as the year 2005/2006.
All 85 local authorities responded to the questionnaire, a 100 percent response rate. This is one less authority than for the last survey because Banks Peninsula District Council was amalgamated with Christchurch City Council in March 2006. Information for Banks Peninsula District Council is not included in this report, but their consent applications have been included in Christchurch City Council's information.
Purpose of the survey
The purpose of the Resource Management Act Survey of Local Authorities is to:
- assist the Minister for the Environment to monitor the effect and implementation of the Resource Management Act (RMA)
- provide the Ministry for the Environment and local authorities with information that:
- highlights areas that may need further research and assist with research projects
- highlights trends over time for some key processes under the RMA
- provides a basis for considering comments on the RMA, including general enquiries and ministerial letters
- promote local authority good practice and improved performance in terms of benchmarks established in the RMA and guidance produced by the Ministry for the Environment
- provide local authorities with information so they can more accurately respond to criticism about RMA processes
- enable individual local authorities to compare their own performance with their peers.
The survey does not measure the performance of the RMA or the performance of individual local authorities in delivering better environmental outcomes. Local authority state of the environment monitoring and reporting provides information about environmental quality and the achievement of environmental outcomes on a district and regional basis.
Responses from local authorities are compared to:
- identify local authorities complying with statutory requirements and recommended good practice
- stimulate discussion about any variance in results between similar local authorities
- promote benchmarking and performance improvement.
The 2005/2006 survey questionnaire
A copy of the 2005/2006 survey questionnaire is provided in Appendix 6. There were some changes in 2005/2006, including expansion of the Māori participation in RMA processes section and a new section on Plan changes and variations. In all, 14 new questions were asked.
Local authorities are required to record details on resource consent applications under section 35 of the RMA (see box below). The core questions on resource consent processing statistics, time and cost were similar to previous surveys. Local authorities should be familiar with these questions and have systems in place to capture most of the required information.
As with the previous survey, the 2005/2006 survey questionnaire was made available for completion online. Eighty-three local authorities submitted their response using the online questionnaire and two local authorities submitted their response using the paper-based format.
Section 35 of the RMA requires every local authority to gather sufficient information to fulfil their functions under the Act; this includes recording details of each resource consent applied for, notified and granted [section 35(5)(g)-(h)] and the exercise of those consents [section 35(2)(d)]. This information is vital for supporting local authority decisions and performs an important audit function. It can also be used to:
- identify areas where improvements can be made in local authority practice
- monitor local authority performance
- maintain consistency in procedures
- provide local ratepayers with a credible and transparent record of their performance
Local authority family groups
Where appropriate, results are reported in family groups of local authorities to enable comparisons to be made between those authorities with similar characteristics. The local authority family groups are:
- regional councils
- unitary authorities, including the Chatham Islands Council
- territorial authorities that process similar numbers of consents:
- Group 1: 0-110 consents
- Group 2: 111-300 consents
- Group 3: 301-650 consents
- Group 4: 651-7000 consents.
Appendix 1 presents the family group each local authority has been placed in for 2005/2006, along with the number of consents they processed.
Throughout the report (n=##) indicates the number of local authorities that answered each question. When comparing data please note that the number of local authorities dropped from 86 to 85 during the 2005/2006 survey period.
Changes in the survey questionnaire do not allow all results to be presented over multiple years. In these instances the most recent available data has been presented. Full reports on each survey year are available on the Ministry for the Environment website: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/rma/annual-survey/.
Local authority good practice
Local authority good practice guidance is included throughout the report and is highlighted in boxes.
Limitations of the 2005/2006 survey
Some local authorities had difficulties answering questions when the information required was not recorded or held in a format that could be readily extracted. This means that a full picture of local authorities cannot be presented for all questions. There was also variation in the interpretation of some questions and some figures were estimated.
The next Resource Management Act Survey of Local Authorities will cover the 2007/2008 financial year. The survey questionnaire will be released to local authorities before 30 June 2007 and responses will be collected after 30 June 2008.