Determining the extent of any adverse environmental effects is paramount to determining whether or not an application can be considered on a notified, limited notified or non-notified basis and also in determining if an activity is appropriate under ss104 and 105 of the RMA which deal with discharge permits, coastal permits, reclamations and subdivisions.
When determining the extent of adverse effects, it is good practice to think about the level of effects along a continuum to ensure that each effect has been considered consistently and in turn cumulatively. This continuum may include the following effects:
- Nil Effects
No effects at all.
- Less than Minor Adverse Effects
Adverse effects that are discernable day-to-day effects, but too small to adversely affect other persons.
- Minor Adverse Effects
Adverse effects that are noticeable but will not cause any significant adverse impacts.
- More than Minor Adverse Effects
Adverse effects that are noticeable that may cause an adverse impact but could be potentially mitigated or remedied.
- Significant Adverse Effects that could be remedied or mitigated.
An effect that is noticeable and will have a serious adverse impact on the environment but could potentially be mitigated or remedied.
- Unacceptable Adverse Effects
Extensive adverse effects that cannot be avoided, remedied or mitigated.
Some councils use a similar scale to assess effects based on rating the extent of the effect with a number. Either approach to scale the significance of effects could prove helpful provided there is some guidance on how to apply the scales to different types of activities and to the relevant tests for the public and limited notification of applications in s95A-G of the RMA.