Before an application can be formally accepted for processing, it needs to be checked to ensure it is complete. Checking the applications at the outset will help identify and clarify early on in the process if any necessary information is lacking and help to avoid delays once the application is formally received.
The completeness check needs to be thorough. However, the check should not examine the accuracy of the information, or be an assessment under ss95 or 104 of the RMA; however it should ensure that the application is in the prescribed form and includes all information required by any relevant regulations (including national environmental standards) and/or an adequate Assessment of Environment Effects (AEE) in accordance with Schedule 4 of the RMA.
This initial check might also highlight whether the proposal is eligible to be a ‘deemed permitted activity’ (ie boundary activity, or a marginal or temporary activity):
- If the council receives a resource consent application which meets the criteria of sections 87AAB and 87AB, it must be treated as a deemed permitted boundary activity, rather than a resource consent as per section 87BA(4). In this instance, the resource consent must not be further processed and must be returned to the applicant, once the consent authority is satisfied it meets the requirements to be a deemed permitted boundary activity.
- If the council receives a resource consent application and they determine that the proposed activity meets the requirements of s87BB (marginal or temporary activity), the council then can decide whether to issue a notice specifying the proposal is a deemed permitted activity instead of continuing to process the resource consent application. If the consent authority decides to issue the notice, then they must return the resource consent application (section 87BB(4)). Please refer to the MfE technical guidance for Deemed Permitted Activities for further information.
The check is for completeness in terms of the requirements for an application specified in s88(3) of the RMA which states that an application can be determined as incomplete if it does not:
(a) include information prescribed by regulations (including national environmental standards); or
(b) include the information required by s88(2)(b) or (c):
- Section 88(2)b) relates to fast track applications that have prescribed information requirements (ie information requirements prescribed by regulations made under s360G). Such applications need to include any prescribed information requirements.
- Section 88(2)(c) requires that any other application (including a fast track application where there are no prescribed information requirements) must include information relating to that activity including an AEE in accordance with Schedule 4.
As lodging the application starts the statutory clock ticking, it is critical for councils to only accept applications that are complete and contain all the information that the council requires in order to make a decision. This is particularly important as:
- there is no ability for consent authorities to stop the statutory clock for section 92 requests following submissions on notified applications. While any number of section 92 requests are still able to be made, the authority may only stop the clock for the first section 92 request and only if it is made prior to notification decision being issued
- time frames can only be extended by section 37A if special circumstances apply or if the applicant agrees to the extension
- councils must give a discount on resource consent charges where the consent is not processed within statutory time frames in accordance with the Resource Management (Discount on Administrative Charges) Regulations 2010.
- RMAA17 has introduced new fast-track process for certain resource consent applications, which must be processed within 10 working days, instead of the standard 20 working days.
It may be helpful to have a checklist that staff can use that outlines all the information that may be required for an application to be considered to be complete and therefore to be accepted by the council. For over-the-counter applications it can be helpful to go through the checklist with the applicant. The applicant, not the council officer, is responsible for providing complete, accurate and appropriate information with an application.
It will generally be appropriate to accept an application as being complete if the following information is provided:
- completed resource consent application form (Form 9) including:
- the applicant's name and contact details
- a description of the proposed activity which will generally include site plan and supporting plans, elevations, cross-sections and any other plans required by council
- the location of the site, including the address and legal description with certificate of title(s) where relevant
- a site description which should assess the natural and physical characteristics of the site and surrounding area
- the site owner/occupier's name and contact details (if different from the applicant details)
- description of any other activities that are part of the proposal, including any permitted activities or activities addressed by other authorities or under other legislation
- details of any other resource consents required and whether they have been applied for. Refer to guidance notes on Assessing the application and AEE – Have the appropriate consents been applied for
- an AEE in such detail that corresponds to the scale and significance of the effects from the proposed activity and which addresses the matters outlined in clauses 6 and 7 Schedule 4. Refer to guidance notes on Assessing the application and AEE – Have the appropriate effects been identified and addressed
- an assessment against Part 2 matters.
- an assessment 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 prescribed by relevant regulations
- date and signature of the applicant or whoever is acting on the applicant's behalf.
There are also specific information requirements for certain types of applications that need to be addressed as follows:
- if the application involves permitted activities, a description of those activities to demonstrate they comply with the relevant requirements and conditions.
- if the application is for the same activity (using the same natural resource) as an existing resource consent, of which is due to expire, an assessment of the value of the investment of the existing consent holder.
- if 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 document must be provided. 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.
Pre-Acceptance checks for Fast-Track consents
Section 87AAC states that an application is to be processed as a fast track application if it is a district land use consent for a controlled activity; and/or an activity prescribed by regulations made under s360G(1)(a); and the application includes an electronic address for service. Until such time that regulations are made under s360G(1)9a), the only applications that are eligible to be fast track applications are those that are district land use consents with a controlled activity status and with an electronic address for service provided.
A fast track consent must be processed within 10 working days, instead of the normal 20 working days for a non-notified resource consent application. The council must therefore undertake the initial completeness check as soon as they possibly can after consent lodgement.
The council must therefore (expediently) check whether:
- the application is eligible to be fast tracked (including the provision of an electronic address for service);
- the applicant has not opted-out of the fast track process;
- the application includes the relevant information outlined in s88(2)(c) (unless it is an activity with prescribed information requirements, whereby the application must include those requirements in accordance with s 88(2((b).
If the applicant has not provided an electronic address for service it means that the application is not eligible to be a fast track application and the normal 20 working day resource consent process applies. However, it is considered good customer service to quickly contact the applicant informing them of the process, and give them an opportunity to provide the relevant information. It should be noted that not providing an electronic address for service is not a matter to which the council determines that the application is incomplete under s88(3).
If the applicant has not indicated whether they wanted to opt-out of the process or not (and is eligible), then the application must be processed as a fast-track application (but it might pay to quickly check with them).
If the applicant has not provided the relevant information outlined in s88(2), then this is grounds for determining that the application may be incomplete under s88(3).