It is important further information requests are focused on getting all of the information required to make a notification decision and determine the application under s104. Therefore, a request for information should:
- directly relate to the actual and potential effects of the proposed activity on the environment and how any adverse effects may be avoided, remedied, mitigated, or offset/compensated for.
- be focused and lead to a better understanding of the nature of the proposed activity
- consider the implications of affected persons excluding trade competitors or the effects of trade competition (s104(3)(a)(i))
- where necessary, clarify aspects of the proposal to understand its likely effects and ensure that conditions are reasonable.
It could be helpful to use a standardised check list to assess applications in terms of their compliance with the information requirements in the RMA and relevant plan(s). This will highlight any gaps in the information provided which were not picked up through the initial 10-day completeness check under section 88(3).
When deciding if further information is required and what information is required, councils needs to consider how essential the missing information is to allow a decision to be made. Key aspects to consider include whether:
- the effects of the activity are likely to be more than minor
- the effects can be adequately assessed from the information currently available
- potential effects can be mitigated through the use of conditions
- there are affected parties who should be involved
- notification and submissions may provide additional information which is necessary to make a decision.
Any further information sought should not be:
- a request for fees (this is a s36 matter)
- beyond what is actually applied for in the application
- used to rectify deficiencies in the regional/district plan
- trivial and unreasonable
- used to obtain information on minor matters that are not essential to determining the application, although information on minor matters might be sought as part of a wider request for substantive information
- used as a means to unnecessarily 'stop the clock'
- a request for a written approval which is made under s95, although it may often be practical to combine a s95 written approval request with a s92 further information request.
Ideally some agreement should be reached between the council and the applicant to provide the necessary information which can then be formalised through a clear written s92 request. However, where information is required on minor matters, the council should contact the applicant directly to see if this information can be provided easily and efficiently without resorting to use of the formal written s92 process. This may help reduce processing time and costs.