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Key caveats and local authority practices by topic area

This page provides additional context for the National Monitoring System data  by topic area.


Efficiency and effectiveness monitoring

  • Local authorities may be at different stages of the five-year reporting cycle, so the National Monitoring System data cannot be used to determine whether a local authority has failed to make public the results of their efficiency and effectiveness monitoring in accordance with section 35(2A) of the RMA.
  • The Ministry has not assessed whether the efficiency and effectiveness monitoring undertaken by local authorities fulfils the requirements of sections 35(2)(b), and 35(2A) of the RMA.

Drivers of plan-making processes

  • An individual plan-making process may have more than one driver and address more than one subject matter.

National instruments driving plan-making processes

  • An individual plan-making process may relate to more than one national instrument.

Timeframes and costs associated with plan-making processes

  • Data on costs associated with plan-making processes was not provided by all local authorities. In some cases figures provided were a local authority’s best estimate of the costs of the process.
  • It is not always clear whether costs provided are inclusive or exclusive of GST.
  • The National Monitoring System did not seek data on local authorities' use of section 37 of the RMA to extend the specified time period for plan-making in 2014/15 or 2015/16.
  • Local authorities had the option to provide commentary on their plan-making processes. While commentary was not provided by all local authorities, it highlighted a number of factors that could affect the time and costs associated with plan-making processes. ​These factors include, but are not limited to:
  • local authority resourcing
  • subject matter (eg, technical amendments are likely to be less costly and take less time than the development of rules for water allocation)
  • scope of the plan-making processes (eg, development of a new plan versus a change to a section of an operative plan)
  • delays to align with other plan-making processes, including the processes of other local authorities
  • level of public interest (including number of submitters to plan-making processes).

Resource Consents

Resource consent ‘bundling’

When multiple resource consents are required for an activity, it is common practice for local authorities to process these applications concurrently under the umbrella of one application; known colloquially as a ‘bundled’ application. The intent of bundling is to enable an integrated and more efficient assessment of the activity and any effects and to provide improved customer service.

Local authorities record information on bundled applications in various ways. This variability affects the quality of the data collected via the National Monitoring System for resource consents across the board. For example, a local authority may report separately on all of the resource consents bundled into a single application. This means that one activity would have a number of rows of data, each considered within our data analysis as a separate resource consent. Local authorities may provide one line of data for charges on bundled consents, while others average charges over all of the overlapping consents. This distorts the data pertaining to the costs of a resource consent.

Pre-application meetings

  • The RMA Survey requested data on the number of pre-application meetings held by local authorities, whether or not that meeting resulted in the lodgement of an application for a resource consent. Under the National Monitoring System, data was sought in relation to pre-application meetings that led to the submission of an application for a resource consent only.

Receipt of applications and determination of ‘completeness’

  • Several local authorities do not record all consent applications at the time that they enter the building. They are often only entered into their system/database once they are formally received (eg, when they have had their pre-acceptance check and are deemed ‘complete’).
  • Several local authorities do not undertake a pre-acceptance check for completeness and just formally accept every application that is received. These local authorities often do so as they consider that this provides a good customer experience. This is not considered best practice as noted in A guide to section 88 and Schedule 4 of the Resource Management Act 1991 and also on the Quality Planning website.
  • If another application is lodged for the same activity for which an earlier application was determined as incomplete, it should be treated as a new application (as per section 88(4) of the RMA) and does not necessarily need to link to the earlier application. As a result, the Ministry is unable to accurately conclude that determining an application to be incomplete is a deterrent to an applicant undertaking a development.

Extensions of resource consent application processing time

Variance on how section 37 of the RMA is applied by local authorities is evident, including in relation to administration.

  • Section 37 enables local authorities to extend timeframes specified in the RMA if the applicant agrees or there are special circumstances. However, some local authorities extend timeframes at the request of an applicant.
  • Local authorities applied section 37 extensions at various stages of the resource consent process, including on or just after the lodgement date. A number of local authorities provided dates for the application of a section 37 extension that were the same or after the date the decision on the resource consent was issued.

Classification of consent and application type

  • There appear to be errors in the way some resource consents are classified based on the description of activity provided. For example, a description of activity relating to a water take may be classified as a land use consent, and a change of conditions is often classified as a new (section 88) application.
  • The Ministry has not attempted to reconcile the text in the description of activity with consent classification, other than to exclude certain applications that appear to be outside the scope of the National Monitoring System (e.g. liquor licenses/ certificates).
    Resource consents processed within statutory time limits
  • The ways local authorities calculate statutory working days vary.
  • The working days that lapse while a local authority awaits full payment of an administrative charge may be excluded from the calculation of statutory processing days. However, some local authorities continue to process the application during this period. This may result in zero statutory working days lapsing during the processing of a resource consent.
  • There are instances where either no data on a process or partial data is provided by a local authority. Some local authorities have provided estimates for certain responses rather than actual data. For example for the 2014/15 data, Thames-Coromandel District Council were unable to provide data on statutory timeframes for resource consents for the majority of applications they processed. Therefore, the figure of 4% of applications processed on time doesn't reflect the Council's actual performance.

Charges for resource consents

  • Where a resource consent was processed in conjunction with another (i.e. were bundled), local authorities were often unable to extract figures for deposits, fixed fees and/or total charges on an individual consent basis. In these situations local authorities were asked to average the fixed fee or deposit and total charges over all jointly processed consents. This has distorted the data in relation to total charges.
  • A number of consents had $0 as their deposit and total charged. In certain instances local authorities may waive the fees. However this may not explain all instances of $0.
  • Fixed fees are charges that cover the total cost of an application and which are levied at the start of the process. Fixed charges are not supplemented by additional actual and reasonable charges once the consent process is complete. In comparison, deposits are charges levied at the start of the application process and are supplemented by additional actual and reasonable charges once the resource consent process is complete. It appears that some local authorities have conflated a ‘fixed fee’ with a ‘deposit’.
  • For the 2014/15 National Monitoring System data, some local authorities provided data GST inclusive whilst others excluded GST. In some cases it could not be verified whether the costs to applicants were inclusive or exclusive of GST. This affects the accuracy and comparability of the data.
  • Several local authorities were unable to provide information pertaining to charges. One reason for this was that some local authorities' financial systems were not linked to their resource consenting systems.
  • It appears that not all discounts provided to applicants were discounts in relation to the Resource Management (Discount on Administrative Charges) Regulations 2010.
  • Prior to December 2017, the 2014/15 data was incorrectly displaying ‘average discount’ values within the online visualisation Data tool. These values have now been corrected within the Data tool.

Complaints, monitoring, compliance and enforcement

State of the Environment monitoring and reporting

Section 35 of the RMA does not specify a reporting cycle or require local authorities to publish the results of State of the Environment monitoring. Based on the information collected through the National Monitoring System, it is therefore unclear whether or not local authorities are carrying out monitoring in accordance with section 35(2)(a).

Section 35(3) does however require a local authority to keep reasonably available at its principal office, information which is relevant to the administration of policy statements and plans, the monitoring of resource consents and current issues relating to the environment of the area.

Resource consent monitoring

  • Local authorities did not interpret the term ‘monitoring event’ consistently.
  • There are some local authorities that did not correctly identify and record some resource consents as requiring monitoring but subsequently monitored these. Therefore, the number of consents that individual local authorities recorded as monitored may exceed the number recorded as requiring monitoring.

Māori participation

Iwi/hapū management plans

  • A single iwi/hapū management plan may be lodged with more than one local authority depending on the extent of the rohe of the iwi/hapū.

Council resourcing: the number of staff working on plans, processing resource consents, complaints, monitoring and enforcement

  • The 2014/15 data does not include staff resourcing for the preparation of policy statements and plans, changes and variations. However, the 2015/16 and 2016/17 data does include such staff resourcing. Therefore, comparisons of the total amount of staff committed to RMA-related activities cannot be made across all years of the NMS.
  • Local authorities sometimes list the same resource against different activities if that person is performing multiple roles. This would inflate the perceived level of resourcing when adding up totals across multiple activities, as each are assumed to be independent.