e-RMA Legal Consideraions

Legal disclaimers

A statement of the provider's legal position in relation to its e-RMA information and services should be visible to any person accessing the website. When preparing this statement, councils should consider:

  • the robustness and accuracy of the information they are providing
  • what caveats are applicable.

Many council websites already provide a disclaimer. The following is an example of the type of disclaimer that could be considered:

The information and advice contained on this website is made available in good faith but its accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. If the information is to be relied on to support a resource consent or building consent application, it should be independently verified.

Resource Management Act (Forms, Fees and Procedures) Regulations

The Resource Management Act (Forms, Fees and Procedures) Regulations state that signatures are not required to be affixed on forms that are electronically submitted such as submission forms.

The RMA states that a submission can be either written or electronic (see definition of submission in section 2). A public notice includes a notice posted on the internet, as well as in the newspaper (see definition of public notice in section 2).The RMA also provides for various other processes to be either written or electronic. These include:

  • councils giving notice that further information is available (section 92(3B))
  • councils giving notice to submitters that an officers report is available (section 42A(4))
  • providing information that is required at a hearing (section 41C(5A))
  • requesting direct referral of a resource consent application to the Environment Court (sections 87D and 198B)
  • councils giving their reasons for declining or returning a request for direct referral (sections 87E(8) and 198C(7).

Electronic Transactions Act 2002 (ETA)

The basic premise of the ETA is that electronic documents are no more anonymous than any other form of communication, and that physical authentication requirements such as signatures now have computer-based 'electronic signature' equivalents.

However, an electronic signature is only reliable if the technology used to create it can reveal any alteration to the information after it has been signed. This means that appropriate technology support needs to be provided to cover those circumstances where authentication is important (eg, submissions on RMA plans or resource consents). Currently, this requirement can be met by electronic signature systems administered by certification authorities.