Purpose of the report
The purpose of the officer’s report is to inform those making the decision (the person with the delegated authority to do so) on the application. The officer’s report therefore needs to outline the merits of the application, and analyse the information provided by the applicant against the considerations outlined in Section 104 and other relevant criteria.
What to include in a non-notified report
Councils may have a set format or templates for writing reports on non-notified consent applications. This can also help provide more efficiency and consistency in report writing.
The report should include an assessment of the proposal against all the relevant matters under all the appropriate sections of the RMA and the relevant plans. In general the report should include:
- A description of the site and proposed activity;
- An assessment of the proposed activity in relation to the rules in the relevant plan/NES which determine the activity status of the proposal.
- An assessment under section 95 (notification analysis)
- As assessment under section 104 (substantive analysis).
- Proposed conditions (and reasons for conditions)
- Conclusion/recommendation (Decision)
- The report may also include the actual decision or approval, in accordance with the applicable council delegations.
In accordance with s42A, the officer’s report does not need to repeat information that is included within the application but can adopt and concur with any or all of the information that has been provided by the applicant. For example, if the description of the proposal, site description and/or AEE is correct and has been checked and agreed with by staff, any or all parts of these assessments can simply be adopted in the officer's report. These provisions help to avoid unnecessary duplication and provide for more efficiency in report writing. For fast track consents, adopting all or part of the applicant application could be particularly appropriate in order to speed up processing time and reflect the generally simpler nature of such applications.
The report needs to assess the effects of the activity and include a statutory assessment of the relevant matters required by the RMA and the relevant policy statements and plans. It should include a recommendation or decision regarding whether the application has or should be granted or declined. If the recommendation is to grant the application, then the report should also propose any conditions that may be required. The report should show a clear logical process from the assessment to the recommendation and conditions.
The scope, depth and length of a report on a non-notified application should reflect the scale and significance of the environmental effects of the proposed activity. The report should identify any parties that were considered to be adversely affected and have given their written approval. Consider attaching a plan to the report to show the location of these parties.
It is good practice and courteous to call or email the applicant before issuing a decision. Where there are proposed conditions of consent they may not be anticipating or which may be of concern to them, the applicant should be sent a draft for comment. Time for this should be allowed for in the overall process, or through the use of section 37A where the applicant agrees.
Conditions can only be imposed if:
a) the applicant for the resource consent agrees to the condition; or
b)the condition is directly connected to 1 or both of the following:
- an adverse effect of the activity on the environment:
- an applicable district or regional rule, or a national environmental standard; or
c) the condition relates to administrative matters that are essential for the efficient implementation of the relevant resource consent.
Note this does not limit the current ability to impose financial contributions under s108(10), or conditions of subdivision consents under s220.
The officer’s report should either be attached to the decision notice or form part of the decision notice.
If the report is a decision report (ie, the person writing the report also has delegated authority to make the decision) then this should be written accordingly. For example, if the decision report is the only report prepared in relation to the consent, it may be appropriate to combine the requirements of a report and a decision report (outlined in s113) to ensure all the necessary information is included.
When should the report be sent out and who to?
If a non-notified application is not going to progress to a hearing there is no need to circulate the report other than to the applicant (attached to the decision notice) unless a copy is requested by another party.
If the application is to proceed to a hearing then a report on a non-notified application should be sent to the applicant, and the decision-maker(s), whether it be a hearing committee or commissioner(s). Section 42A(3) of the RMA requires that the report arrives with the parties it is sent to five working days before the hearing begins (or 15 working days before the hearing if the pre-provision of evidence is required under s41B). This requirement may only be waived if the council is satisfied there is no material injustice to any person who should have been sent a copy of the report under s42A(5).
Where an application is made for a significant project and it is to be heard, it is good practice to circulate the council officer's report considerably earlier than five days before the hearing. This allows all parties (ie, applicant and the commissioner or hearing committee) to consider the recommendations and assessments made, address them and potentially commission further evidence where required.