Once a decision has been made to proceed with the application on a non-notified basis, then an application can be assessed and a decision made about whether to grant or refuse the application under ss 104 - 107. There is no avenue for any input into the process by any other persons. The council can delegate the approval of non-notified applications to officers.
In contrast, the public notification process allows any person to lodge a submission on the application, and for limited notified applications persons identified as being adversely affected can lodge a submission. The limited and publicly notified processes also specifically provide for pre-hearing meetings, mediation, and hearings.
Non-notified applications generally do not require a hearing to make a decision. However, sometimes a hearing may be required where the applicant asks for one, or if the council considers it appropriate that the application be heard for a particular reason (eg, when the applicant and council cannot agree on the conditions of the consent, where it is recommended the consent be declined, or in some cases where the council is the applicant).
As noted above, if the council decides a hearing is required for a fast track application, the application ceases to be continued to be processed as a fast track consent, and the application then reverts to being processed via the standard non-notified process (with hearing).
In contrast, for public and limited notification, it is normal practice for a hearing to be held (unless no submissions are received or no submitters wish to be heard in relation to their submission).
Councils are now able to hold hearings virtually. Section 39AA of the RMA was inserted in response to COVID-19 and enables hearings to be conducted using remote access facilities if a council considers it is appropriate and fair to do so and if it is satisfied that remote access facilities are available.
The Ministry for the Environment (MfE) has released interim guidance to assist councils to use remote access facilities to host virtual RMA hearings.
Timeframes are shorter for non-notified applications. Subject to the applicable stop clocks noted in the RMA and excluded days outlined in the Discount Regulations:
- A decision on a non-notified resource consent should be issued within 10 to 50 working days (see below for further detail).
- A decision on a limited notified consent should be issued within 100 working days if a hearing is held (60 working days if no hearing).
- A decision on a publicly notified resource consent should be issued within 130 working days if a hearing is held (60 working days if no hearing).
(all time is calculated from the date the application was first lodged)
The Resource Management Amendment Act 2020 amended the RMA to enable applicants to suspend the processing of non-notified applications for up to 20 working days.
This can be exercised:
- before a notification decision is made
- until the hearing is completed (if any) or the consent decision is issued.
Previously, applicants could only place their applications on hold between notification and the close of a hearing for publicly and limited notified resource consents.
The applicant/consent holder (and/or a submitter in the case of a notified consent) has a right to appeal the decision of the consent authority to the Environment Court (unless the application was for a boundary activity (unless it had had a non-complying activity status)) (s120).