On 18 October 2017 a number of changes to the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) came into force affecting resource consents.
The aim is to make the process simpler, faster and cheaper for developers, particularly in relation to housing developments.
There are three new processes in addition to the normal resource consent process. The first two must be processed by the Council within 10 working days, down from the current 20 working days.
Fast-track resource consents
A fast-track resource consent is a normal resource consent that must be processed in 10 working days, rather than the normal 20 working days. Currently this only applies to controlled land-use applications. These are ones that are non-notified and must be granted but can have conditions attached. Subdivisions cannot be fast-tracked.
Process – Use the normal land use application form (Form 9), there is now an added box about fast-track applications.
Fee - same as normal controlled land use resource consent applications.
Deemed Permitted Activities – Boundary Activities
A ‘Deemed Permitted’ activity is where a proposal does not meet all RMA requirements but no longer needs a normal resource consent. It has been ‘deemed’ to be ‘permitted’ under the RMA. Developers are instead issued a notice by the Council stating it is ‘permitted’ with an explanation of why it is considered consent is not required.
The first type of Deemed Permitted Activities is a Boundary Activity (new Application Form 9A).
A Boundary Activity is where:
- only one or more Boundary Activity rules are not met.
At this time, there are only three types of rules in the New Plymouth District Plan in this category:
- daylighting to a side boundary – Res5, Rur7, Bus10, OS8.
- Max 30m building length within 10m of a side boundary – Res8.
- Side boundary setback – Res16, Rur17 & 18, Ind16 & 17, Bus17 & OS16.
- the boundary on the neighbouring property must be a private boundary, not a public boundary e.g. road, park/reserve, waterbody; and
- all written approvals from affected neighbouring owners have been received with the application (new Form 8B) and all plans signed by them.
If a proposal breaks any rule other than those above it is not a Boundary Activity and needs a normal resource consent. This includes site-wide rules such as site coverage or height of buildings).
The applicant must include all information listed on Form 9A. If all the required information is received the Council must then process the application within 10 working days. If the application is incomplete, the Council must return the application. There is no ability to put it on hold awaiting further information. Re-lodgement of a new application will restart the clock back to 10 working days.
Deemed Permitted Activity – Marginal/Temporary Infringements
A marginal/temporary infringement is an activity where it is considered by Council that a non-compliance with a RMA requirement e.g. District Plan rule, NES etc. is so minor that:
- The non-compliance is only ‘marginal’ i.e. just breaching the permitted level or very ‘temporary’ i.e. of very short duration.
- There are no effects on the environment in terms of character, intensity or scale compared to the permitted level of the activity.
- Any effects on any person are less than minor i.e. there are no affected parties.
The Council can then issue a notice stating the proposal is ‘deemed permitted’ as a marginal/temporary infringement. The notice must clearly state the reasons for allowing the waiver and how/why no parties are affected.
There is no application process. It is only a process for the Council to use at its discretion.
There is no set time-frame for processing a marginal/temporary infringement, however the Council should process it in a timely manner.
What is the cost for the Deemed Permitted Activities?
Planners will just be charging their time taken for the process until new fees come in on 1 July 2018 for these new processes.
Other changes to the RMA
There were over 40 changes to the RMA, others relating to resource consents include:
Subdivisions and Natural Hazards
All risks from any natural hazard are now required to be considered in subdivision applications (it was previously limited to hazards such as slips) and the Council can attach conditions on subdivision consents regarding any natural hazard (again this was previously limited to specific natural hazards).
Council can now consider environmental offsets/compensation offered by the applicant when assessing resource consent applications.
Notification of applications
Except for Non-Complying subdivisions and where the Council considers there are special circumstances, subdivisions and ‘residential activities’ (new definition in the RMA) cannot be publicly notified. They can still be limited notified.
Controlled land use applications cannot be notified at all, unless there are special circumstances.
The Council is no longer required to put a full public notice in the newspaper for publicly notified applications; only a brief notice is needed that includes the address of the Council’s web-page containing the full application.
Applicant’s Service Address
If applicant provides an electronic address for service we use this as the default address, not a postal address. It will usually be an email address.
Limit on the types of decisions that can be appealed to the Environment Court.
Except where they are non-complying, the following activities cannot appealed to the Environment Court (only High Court on matters of law – judicial review): boundary activities, subdivisions and residential activities; and submitter's on any other application can only appeal on matters already raised in their submission. They cannot raise new issues.
The RMA now clarifies that the Council does not need to process any applications made under the Act until base/fixed fees have been paid in full. The Council may waive this requirement if an alternative arrangement for payment has been made prior.
More information on the RMA amendments is available on the Ministry for the Environment’s website, to view click here.