Applications for resource consent are best lodged by a planner that you have engaged early in the process. The planner will iron out any issues with the Council and normally pave the way so you won’t get any surprises or repeated requests for further information before the Council can make a decision on the application.
When an application for resource consent is notified (to the general public or to only a limited number of affected parties), and there is at least one submission opposing it, the Council will allocate a hearing for the application. Less complicated applications are usually heard by councillors while the Council usually appoints independent hearing commissioners to determine the more complicated ones.
Before the hearing, the Council’s reporting planner will provide a recommendation to the panel as to whether the application should be approved or not and if approved, what conditions should be imposed. The reporting planner’s recommendation must be provided at least 15 working days before the hearing and will of course be subject to any new or further evidence that comes to light at the hearing. The applicant must provide its evidence at least 10 working days before the hearing and the submitters must provide any expert evidence at least 5 working days before the hearing.
A hearing is then held. The panel will hear first from the applicant, secondly from the submitters and lastly from the Council staff involved in the application process. This is the Council’s opportunity to say whether its recommendation has changed in light of the evidence that has come out at the hearing. Once the hearing is closed, it is usual for the applicant to be able to file further submissions dealing with any issues that arose during the course of the hearing. The panel will then, following receipt of those submissions, close the hearing. Once the hearing is closed, the panel must provide a decision within 15 working days. If a decision is not provided by that time, the applicant is entitled to a reduction in the fees otherwise payable for the application. Thankfully, this does not happen very frequently.
Once the decision is issued, (and subject to a few exceptions which are currently under review by the new government) any party to the process has the right to appeal the decision to the Environment Court. This must be done within 15 working days of the date of the decision. The Environment Court is then seized of the matter and the hearing process will generally have to repeat itself all over again. A key difference however, is that the Environment Court does have the ability to award costs against parties. Thus if an appeal really has no merit the appellant is likely to face an award of costs.
Accordingly, the resource consent process can be a long and expensive one. Good legal and planning advice at an early stage will allow you to make decisions on an informed basis knowing the risks of proceeding with a proposal. Meaningful consultation with affected parties cannot be underestimated. If agreement can be reached a hearing can be avoided. Even if you do not end up in agreement, you will identify the key barriers in obtaining the consent sought.
For expert advice contact our Resource Management Team today.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended as legal advice. It is important that you seek legal advice that is specific to your circumstances.