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5. Resource Consent Applications

5.1 Statutory Assessment

This section of the report sets out the RMA framework for the resource consents that Transpower are seeking from the ARC and Environment Waikato, and the adequacy of information provided by Transpower.

5.1.1 Section 104 of the RMA

The matters to which the Board shall have regard to when considering the applications for resource consent by Transpower are set out in s 104 of the RMA.

The provisions of s 104 are all "subject" to Part II, which means that the single purpose and principles of the Act are paramount.

In accordance with s 104(1), when considering Transpower’s applications for resource consent, the Board must have regard to:

S 104 Consideration of applications

(1) When considering an application for a resource consent and any submissions received, the consent authority must, subject to Part 2, have regard to:

(a) any actual and potential effects on the environment of allowing the activity; and

(b) any relevant provisions of:

(i) a national policy statement:

(ii) a New Zealand coastal policy statement:

(iii) a regional policy statement or proposed regional policy statement:

(iv) a plan or proposed plan; and

(c) any other matter the consent authority considers relevant and reasonably necessary to determine the application.

(2) When forming an opinion for the purposes of subsection (1)(a), a consent authority may disregard an adverse effect of the activity on the environment if the plan permits an activity with that effect.

Section 104 (1) requires that consideration should be given to the effects of the proposal on the environment and the provisions of the relevant statutory documents.

Additionally, as a discretionary activity, s 104B dictates that the Board may grant or refuse the application and if granted, may impose conditions pursuant to s 108.

Section 105 also applies and states as follows:

(1) If an application is for a discharge permit or coastal permit to do something that would contravene section 15 or section 15B, the consent authority must, in addition to the matters in section 104(1), have regard to—

(a) the nature of the discharge and the sensitivity of the receiving environment to adverse effects; and

(b) the applicant's reasons for the proposed choice; and

(c) any possible alternative methods of discharge, including discharge into any other receiving environment.

(2) If an application is for a resource consent for a reclamation, the consent authority must, in addition to the matters in section 104(1), consider whether an esplanade reserve or esplanade strip is appropriate and, if so, impose a condition under section 108(2)(g) on the resource consent.

Each of the relevant sections of s 104(1) are considered below. This is a broad, high level review of the Assessment of Environmental Effects (“AEE”) that accompanied resource consent applications by Transpower, and the adequacy of this information in respect to the Board’s consideration of, and decisions on, the applications.

5.1.2 Part II of the RMA

The provisions of s 104 are all subject to Part II of the RMA. Section 4.1.2 outlines the purpose (s 5) and principles (ss 6 – 8) contained in Part II of the RMA. The adequacy of information provided by Transpower to enable the Board to address the proposal against Part II is outlined in Section 5.3 of this report.

5.2 Section 104 Considerations

5.2.1 Actual and Potential Effects

The three AEE’s provided by Transpower to accompany their applications for resource consent address actual and potential effects on the environment in accordance with s 104(1)(a) and the Fourth Schedule of the RMA.

In terms of positive effects, only the resource consent applications to the ARC for the underground cable detail any positive environmental effects of the proposal. This is limited to paragraphs outlining that the proposal will provide an integral link for growing electricity demand, and due to the underground nature of the proposal, will reduce the disruption of existing and planned urban fabric.

The resource consent applications to Environment Waikato and to the ARC for activities associated with the overhead section of the proposal omit information in respect of any positive effects on the environment through the granting of each consent, however the positive effects specifically related to the individual consents sought are likely to be minor in themselves, with any positive benefits deriving from the project as a whole.

This is a gap in the resource consent applications as the document does not outline the justification and positive benefits for the project. While this is contained in some detail within the NOR documentation, the relevant information could be summarised at the beginning of each AEE to set the scene for the resource consent applications. However, given that the resource consents sought are an integral part of the overall project, it is clear that the Transpower justification for the project and identification of positive benefits would apply to the resource consent applications as well. The applicant may wish to address this matter in evidence at the hearing.

With respect to adverse effects on the environment, the two documents accompanying the applications for resource consent from the ARC provide limited, generic, and non-site specific statements in their assessment. For example, in respect to adverse effects of blasting and drilling associated with the overhead section, the AEE states that the activity “can be very noisy” with no reference to possible noise levels. Similarly the adverse effect of construction noise is stated as going to “range from minor to relatively significant”. The AEE’s do state that Construction Management Plans and Vegetation Management Plans, where appropriate, will be implemented by the contractor to minimise adverse effects, and that the activities are intended to comply with the standards set out in NZS 6803:1999 Acoustics – Construction Noise.

While adverse effects of the proposal (in relation to the resource consents sought) are unlikely to be significant provided, for example, the appropriate EW/ARC technical publication guidelines are adhered to (such as the requirements of Erosion and Sediment Control Guidelines for Land Disturbing Activities for the Auckland Region, ARC Technical Publication No. 90 (“TP90”), we consider that it would be appropriate for the applicant to address the potential effects in more detail in evidence to the hearing.

While overall the project is large in scale, the individual components for which resource consent has been sought and any site specific effects of activities related to the consent applications can be adequately addressed in the Construction Management Plan and conditions of consent requiring compliance with the relevant ARC/EW technical publications.

The cumulative effects of granting all consents are only mentioned in the resource consent applications to the ARC for the underground section of the proposal. This is limited to a two paragraph generic statement that acknowledges that there may be limited short-term cumulative effects from noise and vibration. These effects could be controlled by appropriate noise and vibration conditions in accordance with relevant NZ noise standards (NZ6801, 6802 and 6803) and standard practice for vibration control.

Cumulative effects are omitted from the applications for resource consents for the overhead section from the ARC and from the Environment Waikato applications. The resource consents sought in relation to the overhead lines sections relate to relatively discrete sections of work within the overall scheme, and, arguably, the only truly cumulative effects are those associated with the project as a whole, rather than those aspects for which consent is sought. While it is likely that the cumulative effects associated with the works for which resource consents are sought will be minor (particularly if typical requirements such as those set out in TP90 for earthworks and TP131 for culvert installation and the Envronment Waikato Design Guidelines for Earthworks are complied with) because of the nature of the works proposed, we consider that it would be appropriate for the applicant to address this matter specifically in evidence for the hearing.

5.2.2 Relevant Planning Provisions

Consideration of the relevant provisions of a NPS, and regional and district planning documents is required by the Board under s 104(b) of the RMA, as outlined above. With respect to s 104(b)(i) Transpower has not assessed or mentioned the proposed NPS on electricity transmission. Although this is still at the draft stage (as detailed in Section 4.2.1) and hence, will possibly not be considered against the proposal, the applicant may wish to refer to the proposed NPS at the hearing.

The regional planning provisions of relevance to Transpower’s proposal are detailed in Section 4.2.2 and Appendices I to III of this report and are not repeated here. With respect to the regional and district planning documents in the AEE for the resource consent applications, Transpower has identified and listed the regional and district policies and objectives which are relevant for the work associated with the overhead and underground cable sections and for the substations. The identification of the applicable policies is consistent with a similar exercise undertaken for this report. However, Transpower has not undertaken any analysis in relation to the objectives and policies, and therefore has not assessed the consistency (or inconsistency) of the proposal with the planning documents.

All of the AEE’s provided by Transpower provide sufficient information in respect to the status of each activity proposed in a clear and logical table in the “Statutory Context” chapters. The table includes the relevant plan, a description of the activity, the relevant rule and the activity status. A more detailed table containing comments against each activity is contained within Appendix 4 of the ARC applications and Appendix C of the application to Environment Waikato.

The assessment criteria in respect to controlled and restricted discretionary activities are provided in the detailed table contained in the aforementioned Appendices in each AEE. The assessment criteria are listed in the ARC applications but only the relevant rule is referred to in the Environment Waikato applications.

There are no cross-boundary issues to consider as the proposals are contained within the boundaries of the Regional Council with which consent is been sought.

None of Transpower’s applications for resource consent from the ARC and Environment Waikato fall as non-complying activities, therefore there is no need to assess the proposal against S 104D. Transpower have identified that if they are unable to meet specific conditions at any specific site for any activity (for example, drilling of holes below the water table near Geothermal Features) that they will apply for resource consent at a later stage. Drilling below the water table within 50 metres of identified geothermal features (or within 100 metres of features with Development or Limited Development Systems) would be a non-complying activity in the Waikato Region.

5.2.3 Other Matters

Existing Standards

As outlined in Section 4.2.1, MfE is currently developing NES for electricity transmission. The proposed NES and their implications for the proposal have not been discussed in the AEE documents for the resource consent applications.

Other relevant standards applicable to Transpower’s applications are referred to in the AEE documents, namely:

  • Earthworks – all earthworks within the Environment Waikato region will be conducted in accordance with the Environment Waikato (2003) document Design Guidelines for Earthworks, Tracking and Crossings. A practitioner’s Technical Guide to Minor Effects Based Activities. Revised Edition September 2003.Design Guidelines for Earthworks, Tracking and Crossings. A practitioner’s Technical Guide to Minor Effects Based Activities.
  • Sediment - appropriate sediment control measures consistent with TP90 will be put in place during construction through a Construction Management Plan.
  • Construction noise - activities are intended to comply with the standards set out in NZS 6803:1999 Acoustics – Construction Noise.
  • Construction noise - activities are intended to comply with the standards set out in NZS 6803:1999 Acoustics – Construction Noise.

The earthworks and sediment guidelines specific to those regions are accepted guidelines for the respective regions and appropriate for the applications.

Transpower do not refer to the technical guidelines in the Auckland Region for the sizing and design of culverts (ARC Technical Publication No. 131 Fish Passage Guidelines for the Auckland Region), despite applying for a number of consents for the placement of culverts from the ARC. Transpower should address this aspect specifically in evidence at the hearing.

Proposed Consent Conditions

The application for resource consents from the ARC for underground cable work provides a list of suggested consent conditions which includes:

  • Providing a Construction Management Plan to the ARC prior to any construction (including accidental discovery protocol, dust excavations, stormwater/sediment-laden runoff, land stability management etc).

The conditions proposed are very generic in nature with no precise wording of specific conditions. We consider these are inadequate for the scale of the proposal and, if consent is granted, should specify the standards to which the activity is to be carried out. Transpower have put the onus on the consent authority to supply specific conditions, with the implication being that the proposed construction management plans would detail the standards required. Normal practice in this regard would be that a construction management plan would detail the steps that would be taken to ensure that the activity is undertaken in accordance with the standards specified in the consents.

Transpower do not propose any conditions of consent in either the AEE accompanying the application for resource consents for the overhead section from ARC, or the application for resource consents from Environment Waikato. Both AEE’s refer to the development of a Construction Management Plan that will include conditions but neither specifies the nature or wording of conditions, what the conditions will relate to, or anything more specific than this generic comment.

In summary, the conditions of consent proposed by Transpower are superficial and rely on the consent authority to specify the required conditions. We consider that for a development of this scale, more detail and information should be provided and suggest that the applicant submits a more detailed set of proposed resource consent conditions before the hearing to allow all the parties to comment and provide evidence to at the hearing.

We note that the ARC and Environment Waikato have not made any submissions in relation to the resource consents sought. These Councils typically utilise a range of standard conditions and provisions for the types of consent sought for similar activities within their regions. Mitchell Partnerships will, if the Board considers it useful, collate a list of conditions relevant to each consent sought following consultation with the respective Councils for consideration by the Board.

5.2.4 Section 105 Matters

Section 105 requires that in relation to discharges of contaminants that are controlled by s 15 of the Act, the Board must also have regard to:

(a) The nature of the discharge and the sensitivity of the necessary environment to adverse effects; and

(b) The applicant’s reasons for the proposed choice; and

(c) Any possible alternative methods of discharge, including discharge into any other receiving environment.

For each resource consent application to discharge contaminants to the environment Transpower have considered the provisions of s 105 (a), (b), (c) sufficient to enable the Board to assess the applications in accordance with s 105.

5.3 Part II Considerations

The resource consents sought by Transpower would be necessary to achieve the intent of the overall requirement, and, as with the NOR, we believe that the applicant has provided information to describe the nature and extent of the proposal, and has broadly identified the potential effects of the proposal based on the expert advice given to them.

Also as with the NOR, there will be differing opinions as to the level of environmental effects and the extent to which the proposal either upholds or threatens any of the matters of national importance or other matters specified in s 6 - 7 of the RMA, or whether treaty principles have been taken into account (s 8). As with the NOR, we consider that with the benefit of the information provided by the applicant and the evidence the Board is likely to hear at the hearing from the applicant and submitters, the Board would be in a position to make an overall broad judgement as to whether and granting of the resource consents (subject to conditions) will promote the purpose of the RMA.

5.4 Summary

This section of the report contains our high level review of the information provided by Transpower in the resource consent applications in respect to the proposed North Island Grid Upgrade Project, and provides an overall assessment in terms of the s 104 requirements and the provisions of Part II. This assessment should not be seen as either supporting or opposing the consent applications, rather the intention is simply to provide an overview of the issues, information shortfalls and planning requirements relating to the project.

Our assessment is that the proposal:

  • Is not inconsistent with or contrary to any national or coastal policy statement, any regional policy statement or plan related to the area for which the consent is sought.
  • Has only given basic consideration to the actual and potential effects on the environment associated with the resource consents sought. Although these effects are likely not to be significant, if undertaken in accordance with accepted practices, the applicant should address the actual and potential effects of the activities for which consent has been sought in evidence for the hearing.
  • Further information in respect to proposed consent conditions should be provided before the hearing to enable submitters and expert witnesses to best assist the Board.
  • Has provided enough information for the Board to make an overall broad judgement as to whether the resource consents promote the purpose of the RMA.