Most people in New Zealand are impacted in some way by the Resource Management Act (RMA), whether they are aware of it or not.
One way people can be impacted by the RMA is when the activity proposed by a resource consent application, for example a new supermarket or subdivision, adversely affects them. Applications for a resource consent must consider the potential effects of the proposed activity on the local environment, including neighbouring properties. If the effects are likely to be ‘more than minor’ the application must be notified to the people considered affected and sometimes the general public, if the relevant thresholds are met.
It’s considered best practice for developers to consult with neighbours and other stakeholder groups early when developing a consent application, in order to provide opportunities for feedback, identify mitigation measures and to help develop a good relationship. However, the RMA doesn’t require applicants to consult with neighbours or affected parties before lodging an application, so the first time you hear about the consent application and proposed project may be when the council formally notifies you as an affected party.
The RMA is intended to make it easy for the general public to get involved, but often it isn’t. It can be quite daunting to find yourself suddenly involved in a notified consent application where the activity will affect yourself or your property, especially when a thick stack of application documents full of technical language lands in your mailbox. Depending on the nature of the proposal, it can take a considerable amount of time and effort to participate in the application process and ensure the effects on you are fairly considered and managed. Sadly there are too many instances where affected parties find it too hard to take part, or assume it wouldn’t make any difference if they did, and proposals proceed on the assumption that those parties accept the adverse effects on them because their voice has been absent.
To help make this easier, here is our plain English guide to making a submission as an affected party.
- You’ll receive formal notification from the Council that you are an affected party. This will be either physically posted or emailed to you and will include a bundle of documents that may include:
- A letter notifying you that you are an affected party with instructions on how to make a submission and the closing date for submissions.
- A copy of the Council’s Notification Report, which will include a summary of the proposed activity, an assessment of how it fits with the local planning framework, the potential effects it may have on people and the environment. This report will say why you’ve been considered an affected party.
- A copy of the consent application and any further information the Council have requested about the proposal after the application was lodged. This will be made up of an Assessment of Environmental Effects and any technical expert reports that are relevant (e.g. noise, traffic, air quality).
- Read all the documents and make a note of any questions or concerns you have. You may be able to contact the Council Planner or the applicant to ask questions or seek clarification on anything that is unclear. Some expert reports can be quite technical, so don’t be afraid to ask questions to make sure you understand how the proposal may affect you and how the applicant proposes to reduce or manage that impact.
- Once you’ve read all the information, sought any required clarification and thought about how the proposal impacts you and what it would mean for you and your property, start writing your submission. There is certain information that must be included – usually the Council will have a submission form which you can complete, and upload/attach documents to. Required information includes:
- Your name, address, phone number and email address
- Which application you’re submitting on
- Whether you support or oppose the application and the reasons why
- What decision you want the Council to make
- Whether you want to attend the hearing to talk to the person/panel who will make the decision on the application about your submission.
- Regarding what decision you want the Council to make, the options are to grant the application, grant it with certain consent conditions, or to decline it.
- You must also send a copy of your submission to the applicant once you’ve sent it to council. The information you receive from the Council when you’re notified should include a contact address to send it to.
- Once the submission period has closed, a hearing will be held if any submitters have said they want to attend to talk about their submission. This is where a decision maker appointed by the Council will consider all the information and hear from the involved parties, being the applicant, submitters and the Council Planner. This is your opportunity to speak further about the points in your submission, hear what other submitters have said, and see how the applicant has responded to the submissions received.
- The decision maker has a specified timeframe within which to make their decision following the hearing. You’ll be notified by the Council when the decision has been made and should be sent a copy of the decision report, which will set out how the decision was arrived at.
WM Environmental can support you in navigating the notification process as an affected party and to ensure your interests are represented fairly. Our team has extensive consenting, operational and compliance experience and are uniquely placed to offer robust and comprehensive advice to facilitate mutually beneficial outcomes. To make your voice heard, contact us today.
Posted: 21 August 2020