Duty to provide good Application
Duty to provide a “properly formulated” application to Council
The recent decision of Zwart v Gisborne District Council  NZEnvC 242 provides an example of a costs award against a consent authority and a strong reminder that a full and proper assessment must be undertaken by an authority when processing resource consent applications.
The Court found that the application had not been properly formulated, that the Council had failed to sufficiently analyse the application to reveal and deal with the issues, and to see what was required by way of evidence from the Applicant. The application did not adequately address traffic, landscaping and storm water management issues and failed to include a scaled and comprehensive plan of the proposal.
During the hearing numerous and significant adaptations of the application had been presented by the Applicant, and the Council had failed to provide any evidence because it no longer felt it could support its decision to grant consent. These factors prevented the Court making a decision in the first instance, requiring specific, additional information to be provided to it before granting consent.
Ultimately, in deciding whether costs should be awarded, the Court concluded that “between the actions and inactions of the Applicant and the Council the matter became much more tortuous that it could have, and should have been.”
The Court made clear that it is the duty of the consent authority to ensure that adequate information is provided by an applicant.
Both the Council and the Applicant were directed to pay $10,000 to the Appellants to contribute to their costs.
Zwart v Gisborne District Council provides a concise and salutary reminder to consent authorities of the importance of adequately assessing and processing an application before reaching a decision and, if required, progressing to hearing. Thus a properly formulated application would have helped the Council in this case.