Getting involved in council plans and plan preparation processes

Councils must consult with their communities when they prepare or review plans or regional policy statements, or consider a change or variation.

Consultation requirements depend on which of the following three planning process under the RMA a council chooses to follow: the standard process, collaborative planning process or streamlined planning process.

The Planning tracks summary comparison compares the three processes. Contact your council if you are unsure about which one to follow.

How you can be involved in the standard process 
How you can be involved in the collaborative planning process 
How you can be involved in the streamlined planning process

How you can be involved in the standard process 

The standard process under the First Schedule of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) has been used since the Act came into force in 1991. It is the default option for the preparation and change of plans or regional policy statements.

It follows a set procedure and provides for consultation as well as formal public involvement. This is through submissions and hearings and the opportunity to appeal the council’s decisions. Councils can add further steps to encourage early engagement by the community in the development of the plan/regional policy statement.

1) Get involved early

Regional and district councils continuously work on planning issues and usually provide multiple opportunities for you to get involved early. This means that you can help to shape planning issues before they are officially proposed (eg, through attending community gatherings, joining public discussion panels, contributing to online forums, subscribing to mailing lists).

To find out more about how you can get involved early:

  • visit your council’s website and sign up for their newsletter/emails/Facebook and Twitter pages/rss feed to receive information and updates
  • check the local newspaper for official announcements and public notices
  • attend council and committee meetings open to the public
  • contact the council’s planning staff directly.

2) Make a written submission on a proposed plan/regional policy statement or change

The council generally publicly notifies a proposed plan or change to an existing plan. It does this by putting a notice in the newspaper and on its website and/or by sending you information directly.

After notification, you can make a written submission to let the council know what you like and what you don’t like about the proposal and why and how you would like it to change. You can also provide information that you think the council should consider in making their decisions.

Note: When everyone affected by a proposal can be clearly identified, the council may choose to limit notification to these people. This means you will only be informed and can only lodge a submission if you are directly affected.

For details on how to make a submission see An everyday guide to the RMA: Making a submission on a proposed plan or plan change.

There will be a closing date by which all submissions must be received by the council.

3) Review submissions

After the submission period closes, the council summarises the submissions and will let you know where and when you can view the summary report. Please check that your submission is summarised correctly.

Once the summary is released, you have a short period of time (10 working days) to make a further submission to either support or oppose a matter in someone else’s submission. You can only do this if you have an interest that is more than the public interest in general, or if you are representing a relevant aspect of the public interest.

For details on how to make a further submission see An everyday guide to the RMA: Making a submission on a proposed plan or plan change.

4) Speaking about your submission in a hearing

If you or other submitters request to be heard in support of your submission the council will hold a hearing.

A hearing commissioner, panel or council committee will consider the submissions and hear any evidence that supports the submissions.

You can ask to:

  • be heard in person
  • make a written statement
  • join other submitters with similar interests
  • assign another person to represent your interest.

Note: A pre-hearing meeting may also be held to sort out issues before a formal hearing and you may be invited to attend this.

Before the hearings, a council officer will usually present a report about the proposed plan, proposed plan change or plan variation, and the submissions on it.

For guidance about appearing at a hearing see An everyday guide to the RMA: Appearing at a council plan or plan change hearing.

5) Council decisions

Once the council makes a decision on the submissions and finalises the content of the proposed plan, plan change or variation, it will publicly notify its decision in the newspaper and on its website. You will also be informed directly if you’ve been involved in the process so far.

The council is required to have made its decisions within two years of the date that the proposed plan/regional policy statement or change was notified. 

6) Lodging an appeal on the council’s decision

You have the right to lodge an appeal on the decision with the Environment Court on any matters or content that you submitted on.

You also have the option to join another appeal if you made a submission on a matter in that appeal, or if you have an interest that is more than the public interest in general, or if you are representing a relevant aspect of the public interest. You should seek professional advice before lodging an appeal, and you may be eligible for assistance.

For information about appealing the decision, see An everyday guide to the RMA: Your guide to the Environment Court.

The proposed plan/regional policy statement, change or variation becomes fully operative after the council has made its decision and all appeals, if there are any, have been resolved. Parts of the plan that are ‘beyond challenge’ (because no submissions opposed it or no appeals were lodged on it) are treated as operative even if the whole plan is not fully operative.

How you can be involved in the collaborative planning process 

The collaborative planning process brings people with different views together in a group to resolve highly contentious planning matters early in the planning process. The collaborative group develops consensus recommendations which must be given effect to in the proposed plan or change developed by the council.

Following public notification, the proposed plan is opened to submissions and hearings led by a review panel. The review panel provides recommendations to the council. Appeals are limited to points of law to the Environment Court, unless the local authority deviates from the review panel recommendations in preparing the final plan.

1) Get involved early

Regional and district councils continuously work on planning issues and usually provide multiple opportunities for you to get involved early.

This means that you can help shape planning issues before they are officially proposed (eg, through attending community gatherings, joining public discussion panels, contributing to online forums and subscribing to mailing lists).

Before deciding to use a collaborative planning process, a council must ensure the community has the capacity and motivation to be involved throughout the often long collaborative process.

To find out more about how you can get involved early:

  • visit your council’s website and sign up for their newsletter/emails/Facebook and Twitter pages/rss feed to receive information and updates
  • check the local newspaper for official announcements and public notices
  • attend council and committee meetings open to the public
  • contact the council’s planning staff directly.

2) Get involved with the collaborative group

The council publicly notifies its decision to use a collaborative planning process by putting a notice in the newspaper and on its website and/or sending you information directly.

It then sets up a collaborative community group. The members of the collaborative group must reflect a balanced range of the community’s interests, values and investments in the relevant areas as they relate to the proposed planning issue. The council can assign as many people to the group as it wants. However, the group must at least contain people representing the views of tangata whenua and affected local authorities.

It will be up to the council to establish the process for appointing the collaborative group. 

You can:

  • put yourself forward to be on the collaborative group
  • be involved by being nominated to the council yourself
  • nominate a representative to join the collaborative group
  • engage by talking with the people on the group that represent your interests.

3) Engage with the collaborative group

The collaborative group will discuss values, interests, options and implications associated with the planning issue. It must also carry out a process to seek community views. 

The council sets a terms of reference for the collaborative group, in consultation with the group. The terms define the scope of the planning issue and the process to seek community views and resolve disputes.

The collaborative group process may take some time (up to several years). The group’s findings and recommendations are then summarised and handed to the council in a report.

The consensus report must include:

  • recommendations that the group reached consensus on and reasons why
  • a summary of the costs and benefits identified
  • any alternatives considered
  • a record of matters on which the group did not reach consensus
  • a summary of how the group obtained and considered the views of the community in coming to its recommendations.

4) Make a written submission on the proposed plan or change

The council must give effect to the collaborative group’s consensus position in a proposed plan or plan change. The council publicly notifies the proposed plan or change by putting a notice in the newspaper and on its website and/or by sending you information directly.

At this stage, you can make a written submission to let the council know what you like and what you don’t like about the proposal, and whether, why and how you would like it to change. You can also provide information that you think the council should consider in making its decisions.

For details on how to make a submission see An everyday guide to the RMA: Making a submission on a proposed plan or plan change.

5) Support your submission in a hearing

The council summarises the submissions and provides this report to the collaborative group and iwi authorities for review. After this, you will have an opportunity to support your submissions at a hearing held by an independent review panel. This might involve cross examinations and/or require mediation.

You can choose to:

  • be heard in person
  • lodge a written statement
  • join other submitters with similar interests
  • assign another person to represent your interest.

For guidance about appearing at a hearing see An everyday guide to the RMA: Appearing at a council plan or plan change hearing.

Following the hearings, the review panel makes recommendations to the council on the content of the proposed plan and the matters raised in submissions. When making the final decision about the plan, the council can only accept a recommendation or reject it and give an alternative provision.

6) Lodge an appeal on the council’s decision

The council notifies its decisions on the plan content by putting a notice in the newspaper and on its website, and may also send you the information directly.

If you're unhappy with the decision, you may be able to lodge an appeal with the Environment Court. Appeals are limited to points of law if the council has accepted the review panel’s recommendations in preparing the final plan. Appeals by way of rehearing (rather than the usual de novo hearings) are available only in cases where the council’s decision deviates from the review panel recommendations.

You should seek professional advice before lodging an appeal, and you may be eligible for assistance. 

The proposed plan, plan change or variation becomes fully operative after the council has made its decision and all appeals, if there are any, have been resolved.

For more information on this collaborative planning process see the page About Collaboration.

For more information on this process, see Fact Sheet 6 – A new optional collaborative planning process on the About the Resource Legislation Amendment Act 2017 web page.

How you can be involved in the streamlined planning process

A council can choose to request the Minister provide a streamlined planning process (eg, to address a pressing planning issue such as an unintended consequence of a plan provision, the implementation of national direction or a significant community need).

Under this process, the council must follow the steps set out in a direction, issued by the Minister for the Environment, which must at least provide consultation (if not already undertaken) and a submission process allowing those affected by the proposal to be involved. 

Once the process in the direction has been followed the council must submit its proposed plan or plan change to the Minister for the Environment for approval before it can become operative.

There is generally no ability to appeal provisions that were made through a streamlined planning process, except in relation to designations and notices of requirement.

If the plan or plan change is a regional coastal plan, the responsible Minister is the Minister of Conservation, not the Minister for the Environment.

1) Get involved early

Regional and district councils continuously work on planning issues and usually provide multiple opportunities for you to get involved early. That way, you can help to shape planning issues before they are officially proposed (eg, through attending community gatherings, joining public discussion panels, contributing to online forums and subscribing to mailing lists).

To find out more about how you can get involved early:

  • visit your council’s website and sign up for their newsletter/emails/Facebook and Twitter pages/rss feed to receive information and updates
  • check the local newspaper for official announcements and public notices
  • attend council and committee meetings open to the public
  • contact the council’s planning staff directly.

2) Make a written submission on the proposed plan or change

The council generally publicly notifies a proposed plan/regional policy statement, change or variation by putting a notice in the newspaper and on its website and/or sending you information directly.

After notification, you can make a written submission to let the council know what you like and what you don’t like about the proposal, and why and how you would like it to change. You can also provide information that you think the council should consider in making their decisions.

Note: When everyone affected by a proposal can be clearly identified, the council may choose to limit notification to these people. This means you will only be informed and can only lodge a submission if you are directly affected.

For details about how to make a submission see An everyday guide to the RMA: Making a submission on a proposed plan or plan change.

The council is required to prepare:

  • a report summarising all submissions received
  • a report showing how these submissions were considered during decision-making and what changes are to be made to the proposed plan or plan change in response to these submissions.

The council must submit these reports to the Minister for Environment for approval before the proposed plan or plan change can be made operative.

The Minister can approve the proposed plan or plan change, require the council to reconsider it (with or without any recommended changes) or decline it. The Minister must provide reasons for his decision to the council. If the Minister approves or declines the proposed plan or plan change the council must give public notice of the Minister’s decision and serve a copy of the public notice to all submitters.

If the proposed plan or plan change is approved, the council publicly notifies the final plan together with the supporting documents, by putting a notice in the newspaper and on its website and/or sending you information directly.

3) Other ways to get involved

The specific planning process, set out in a direction, issued by the Minister for the Environment for the plan change will be available on the council’s website. This process may include other stages where you can be involved beyond the minimum steps described above. If you need more information contact the council for details.

For more information on this process, see Fact Sheet 5: A new optional streamlined planning process on the About the Resource Legislation Amendment Act 2017 web page.

Reviewed:
01/09/17