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Changes to RMA from 3 March 2015

Changes to RMA from 3 March 2015
17 Dec 2014

Consenting guidance:

The Ministry is in the final stages of developing implementation materials on the consenting elements of the Resource Management Amendment Act 2013 (RMAA 2013) which will be released before Christmas. The implementation material covers the two main changes to the consent process brought in by the RMAA 2013:

  •  the six month timeframe for processing notified applications, and
  •  the amended criteria for making and receiving applications (section 88 and Schedule 4)

The materials were developed for practitioners and will explain the policy intent of the amendments, guide users through the implications of the amendments, and provide resources to help with implementation. The materials have been developed in collaboration with a small group of district and regional consent group managers from councils across New Zealand.

The changes will commence from 3 March 2015.

A more simple section 88

Section 88 now specifies that applications must be made in the prescribed form and include the information required by Schedule 4. The new Schedule 4 provides a more comprehensive and consolidated point of reference for the information that must be provided with an application.

Previously, section 88 required that applications include an assessment of environmental effects (AEE) in accordance with Schedule 4 and the information required by regulations. Schedule 4 only set out what should be included in an AEE.

More time to accept or reject applications

Previously, section 88 allowed consent authorities up to five working days to decide whether to accept or return applications. It now provides up to 10 working days for this decision. This extension recognises that more time might be needed for this check, due to other changes to the resource consent process, particularly the more comprehensive information requirements of Schedule 4. More generally, this extension reflects the importance of consent authorities only accepting complete applications so as to avoid delays in the long-run.

Consent authorities must return incomplete applications

Previously, section 88 specified that the consent authorities may return applications that they deem to be incomplete. Now, consent authorities must return applications that they determine to be incomplete. However, section 88(3) specifies that consent authorities may determine an application is incomplete if certain information is missing. This means consent authorities still have the discretion to decide that an application is complete, even if some information hasn’t been provided.

A consolidated source for all information requirements

The new Schedule 4 brings together all the information requirements that were previously dispersed between section 88, the old Schedule 4, and regulations. Previously, Schedule 4 only covered the requirements of an AEE.

More comprehensive information requirements

The new Schedule 4 bridges a gap that previously existed between the information that had to be provided with an application and the information that is needed to reach a decision. Schedule 4 now requires applications to take into consideration provisions of the RMA and other planning documents that are relevant at the substantive decision-making stage under section 104.

More information can be adopted in a council officer’s report

Section 42A now allows a report prepared by a council officer to adopt any information included in an application. It no longer restricts the adoption of such material to the information contained in the assessment of environmental effects only. This will reduce duplication between the application and a council officer’s report.

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