The RMA Quality Planning Resource

Application forms

Preparing a good resource consent application form

Form 9 of the Resource Management (Forms, Fees and Procedure) Regulations 2003 specifies the prescribed form for an application for resource consent. Section 88(2) and Schedule 4 of the RMA prescribe what information needs to accompany an application for resource consent. The level of detail provided should correspond with the scale and significance of the effects that the activity may have on the environment.

Many council’s have developed their own application forms based on the prescribed form. As well as the information required by Schedule 4, effective application forms should try to include any other information that the consent authority considers necessary in order to make a decision. The following list provides mandatory information requirements for all applications as required in Form 9 and under Clause 2 and 6 of Schedule 4:

  • the name of the council to which the application is being made
  • the applicant's name and contact details
  • the site owner/occupier's name's and contact details (if different from the applicant details)
  • a description of the activity which will generally require a site plan and supporting plans, elevations and cross-sections
  • a description of the site at which the activity is to occur (this should include the location of the activity along with a description of any natural and physical characteristics of the site and any adjacent or nearby uses that may be relevant to the consideration of the application)
  • a description of any other activities that are part of the proposal to which the application relates, including any permitted activities or activities addressed by other authorities or under other legislation
  • a description of any other resource consents required in respect of the activity, and whether or not an application has been lodged for such related consents
  • an assessment of the activity’s effects on the environment which must cover all the relevant aspects of clause 6 and 7 of Schedule 4, including any actual and potential effects the activity may have on the environment and ways in which adverse effects may be avoided, remedied or mitigated
  • identification of any persons affected by the proposal and any consultation undertaken and the response of any person consulted, while noting there is no obligation to consult
  • a list of names and addresses of those who have given their written approval (completed written approval forms including signed plans of the proposed development attached to the application)
  • an assessment of the activity against Part 2 matters
  • an assessment of the activity against any relevant provisions of a document referred to in section 104(1)(b), which includes NES, other regulations, NPS, NZCPS, RPS and district and regional plans
  • any information required to be included by any plan or regulations.

There are also specific requirements for the assessment of environmental effects for certain applications if it involves the following:

  • the discharge of contaminants – a description of the nature of any discharges and the sensitivity of the receiving environment, and any possible alternative methods or receiving environments for the discharge
  • use of hazardous substances – an assessment of the risks to the environment that are likely to arise from such a use
  • permitted activities – a description of the activity that demonstrates that it complies with the relevant requirements and conditions
  • the application relates to the existing consent – an assessment of the value of the investment of the existing consent holder
  • the proposal falls within an area covered by a planning document prepared by a customary marine title group under section 85 of the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 -an assessment of the activity against the resource management matters in that document
  • for subdivision proposals, plans showing: the position of all new and existing boundaries; the area of all new and existing allotments; any new or existing reserves including esplanade strips/reserves; any areas of any part of the bed of any lake or river to be vested in a territorial authority; any land within the coastal marine areas; any land to be set aside as new roads and the existing and proposed services on site such as water and stormwater.
  • for reclamation proposals, plans showing: the area and location of land proposed to be reclaimed; the position of all new boundaries; the portion of area (if any) to be set aside as an esplanade reserve or strip.

The application should also state whether they intend to make a request for direct referral, while noting this request can subsequently be made up to five days after submissions close (refer to the guidance note on Direct Referral for more information).

Section 88(3) states that a consent authority may determine an application is incomplete if it does not include all of the information prescribed by regulations or required by Schedule 4. This means consent authorities have the discretion to decide that an application is complete and to therefore formally accept it, even if some required information is not present. This may be appropriate where that information is not relevant or necessary to assess the effects of the activity. However, the more comprehensive requirements of Schedule 4 also provide consent authorities with a stronger basis to reject inadequate applications if they see fit.

The wording of s88(3A) has also changed to state that if the consent authority determines that the application is complete, it must return the application. This change reflects the fact that applications should be fit-for purpose at lodgment and applications that are deemed to be incomplete should not be accepted under any circumstances. Accepting incomplete applications does not promote efficient consent processing, as there can be costs and delays incurred later on through further information requests. A good pre-application process and guidance will help encourage a complete application at the outset avoiding such delays.

When making a decision whether to accept an application as complete it is important that the consent authority considers whether the information that has been provided is an accurate reflection of what the authority will require to process the application through to a final decision. Getting all the relevant information upfront is important as it can help minimise the need for further information requests. This will be particularly important in the case of notified applications as there is no longer the ability for the clock to be stopped by the council after the close of submissions.

A checklist that an applicant can 'tick off' is a clear way of communicating the information that must be included for an application to be considered to be complete. The following are examples of different forms and checklists for different sorts of applications:

It can be useful to develop different forms for different types of activities so that information requirements for particular types of applications are made clear. For example, developing separate application forms for an air permit, water discharge permit and land-use consent etc. Alternatively, create forms that allow applicants to indicate the variety of consents required on the same form.