Prospective applicants should be encouraged to discuss their proposal with council staff before applying for resource consent. For simple projects this may just entail over-the counter advice at the council offices, an email or phone call. For more complex proposals, pre-arranged pre-application meetings are beneficial. Processing an application is generally simpler, quicker and less costly if the applicant has already sought the council's advice on the relevant plan provisions and information requirements before making an application.
Pre-application meetings in general
The applicant should be encouraged to bring with them to a pre-application meeting: site identification (ie, legal description or location map), site photos and a site plan and/or proposed plan. The applicant should also be encouraged to provide a brief description of the proposal in advance and any plans, even if they are indicative. This will give council officers the opportunity to identify the relevant issues and ensure all relevant council officers can be present at the meeting.
A pre-application meeting will assist with:
- confirming the need for resource consent and whether other consents are likely to be required from other councils, or whether the proposal could be considered a ‘boundary activity’ or a ‘marginal or temporary’ activity which may be exempted from needing resource consent (refer to guidance on consent exemptions and also notes below).
- identifying the type of resource consent(s) required
- explaining the resource consent process to the applicant, including the likely time involved in processing the application, including the possibility of Fast-Track consent processing for certain consents (refer to note below).
- providing detail on the application fee(s) required, the Council's charging policy and the Resource Management (Discount on Administrative Charges) Regulations 2010 or the council’s own discount policy, whichever is relevant.
- providing an estimate of likely costs
- identifying the relevant issues, scope and detail of the information required to support the application(s) so it corresponds to the scale and significance of the environmental effects
- explaining the information requirements for AEE's in Schedule 4 to ensure all the relevant requirement are met
- discussing possible alternative solutions where issues have been identified
- identifying what relevant information the council holds which may assist the applicant, including how and where to obtain the correct application forms etc
- explaining what procedures the application is likely to be subject to (ie, in determining whether the application is likely to be notified, limited notified or non-notified and the criteria to make this decision)
- identifying any parties likely to be affected and the degree of consultation recommended
- identifying tāngata whenua who may be affected by a proposal and their contact details (Te Kāhui Māngai is an iwi register held by Te Puni Kōkiri which has a national list of iwi and Māori organisations and their contact details)
- outlining the process for direct referral applications and the procedures for applicants to make a request for direct referral
- where notification may be likely, outlining the process including the ability to request independent commissioner(s) to hear and decide the application and the likely cost associated with that request
- outlining the option of lodging matters of national significance with the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).
Advice on proposals that may qualify as deemed permitted activities or to be processed as fast track consents
Deemed Permitted Boundary Activities (for territorial authorities/unitary authorities)
For any proposals requiring resource consent due to the infringement of District Plan rules, it may be determined at this pre-application stage that the proposed activity is a ‘boundary activity’ (defined in section 87AAB(1) as an activity that “requires a resource consent because of the application of 1 or more boundary rules, but no other district rules,…and no infringed boundary is a public boundary.” ). If a proposed activity is a ‘boundary activity’, the council must treat the proposal as a permitted activity, and give notice to this effect, as long as written approval is provided by the relevant neighbour(s) and certain information is supplied to the council. The pre-application advice in this case will assist the applicant in determining which neighbours (ie those with an ‘infringed boundary’) need to provide their written approval and the information that is required to be provided to council in order for the activity to be considered as a Deemed Permitted Boundary Exemption. Refer to the Ministry’s technical guidance on deemed permitted activities for further information.
Fast Track Consents (for territorial authorities/unitary authorities)
Applicants should be made aware that if their proposal is a district land use consent with a controlled activity status, then it qualifies to be processed on a fast track basis under s87AAC of the RMA i.e. within 10 working days instead of the normal 20 working days for a non-notified consent, if the applicant provides an electronic address for service. The applicant should be made aware that they are able to opt out of this fast-track process when they lodge their application if they so wish.
Deemed Permitted Marginal or Temporary Activities (for all local authorities)
The council may also determine at the pre-application stage that the proposed activity may only have a very minor breach, or very temporary “ non-compliance with requirements, conditions, and permissions specified in the Act, regulations (including any national environmental standard), a plan or a proposed plan” (s87BB), and that the effect of the proposed activity will not be discernible from those of permitted activities. If the council is satisfied that they have adequate information in order to make this assessment, they have the discretion to provide a written notice to the applicant stating that the proposed activity is considered a permitted activity and that resource consent is not required (section 87BB). There is no application process for this process and it is completely at the discretion of the council as to whether they would like to consider the use of this tool on a case-by-case basis. Refer to the Ministry’s technical guidance on deemed permitted activities for further information.
Pre-application meetings for major or complex applications
For major or complex proposals, a pre-application meeting is more important to bring together the various parties likely to be involved to discuss and ideally resolve issues before the application is finalised. If it is likely there will be applications to other councils, any pre-application meeting should also involve the appropriate staff from the other councils.
The pre-application meeting should ensure when the application is lodged that it contains all the relevant detail and the detail corresponds to the scale and significance of the environmental effects from the proposal. The meeting should aim to:
- provide the council and others with the opportunity to contribute to the process
- ensure everyone involved understands how the relevant plan(s) are interpreted
- clarify any additional information requirements (eg, hazardous and contaminated sites)
- receive early feedback and advice that is agreed and recorded on file
- address the types of modelling or risk analysis to be undertaken, including any assumptions
- determine the acceptability of the baseline data to be provided
- clarify who will be involved in the application including the level of input from consultants
- clarify the timeframes for notified applications (130 working days) and limited notified applications (100 working days) and requirements for pre-circulation of evidence if the application is notified and a hearing is to be held
- discuss the option of direct referral to the Environment Court or lodging matters of national significance directly with the Environmental Protection Authority.
This should ensure applicants scrutinise their proposal as closely as possible and produce a targeted and appropriate AEE which corresponds to the scale and significance of the effects.
Try to ensure the council officers meeting with the potential applicant and their representatives will be the officers that deal with the application once lodged. This helps to retain a consistent approach to the proposal from both the applicant's and the council's point of view. It may also be beneficial for council officers to ask applicants to consider the pre-circulation of material prior to the meeting to allow council staff to undertake any necessary preparation to allow for a more efficient and productive meeting.
Arrange further meetings before the application is lodged if it will assist in agreeing to matters with the various parties, experts and council officers or if the proposal changed as a result of the first meeting. Setting an agenda and circulating the information recorded from the initial meeting to the various parties may also assist when meeting again.
Documentation of pre-application meetings/advice
It is very important that any pre-application advice given at a meeting is accurately documented and filed so it can be linked to the application once it is lodged. Pre-application meeting records should be circulated to all who attended, so everyone has a record of what was discussed. Documentation of pre-application meeting and advice should:
- make the record as accurate as possible, including the date and time of meeting
- list all the participating parties and keep a record of their contact details so they can be contacted if needed before the application is lodged
- file the record in a specific location so that whoever receives the application can put a copy of the record with the application before circulating it to the reporting officer(s).
As a matter of good practice, councils should take care to accurately record what information and advice has been provided to an applicant following a pre-application meeting, particularly where the applicant is to rely on this information to refine their application. If the eventual processing officer was not present at the meeting, this information should be passed onto the processing officer to ensure consistency of advice and approach.
The applicant should be made aware that any information that they provide to a council may be required to be disclosed under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987, unless there is a good reason to withhold the information under the Act (such as preventing unreasonable prejudice to someone’s commercial position).