People are generally more comfortable with a development if they have had an opportunity to be informed about a future change, and could provide feedback on the proposal. In some instances, the affected parties may be future neighbours so it is worth an applicant taking the time to consult with existing residents.
Consultation may help identify alternatives if done early which is particularly important for large proposals. Early consultation can lead to the development of a better and more complete resource consent application with fewer adverse effects and/or a more comprehensive set of remediation or mitigation measures. Consultation may also facilitate a good relationship with affected or interested parties and is therefore less likely to lead to entrenched positions, and may increase flexibility in the final decision.
Applicants may be reluctant to consult because they may not wish to 'alert' neighbours or affected parties to the proposal. Often applicants will only discuss a proposal with neighbours if the council has indicated that written approvals will be required, otherwise the application will be notified. This can occasionally lead to tensions which might have been avoided through earlier consultation.
Applicants should be advised that consultation during the development of the proposal may help address and resolve concerns for the applicant, neighbours and affected parties. The use of side agreements to resolve concerns of affected parties is covered later in the guidance note.
Note that any discussion that takes place between an applicant and another party after the application is lodged with the council, cannot be deemed 'consultation' for the purposes of the assessment of environmental effects.
Obviously the need for, and benefits of, early consultation also apply where councils are the applicant.