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This article is focused on New Zealand law and explains issues from a Common law perspective.
How to oppose the granting of a NZ resource consent
The effects of a New Zealand resource consent are potentially long-lasting, and the opportunity to object is limited. If you wish to object to an application for a consent, it's therefore important that you plan your objection carefully and that you get advice. Depending on the application, this may involve you consulting with a range of experts, such as planners, engineers, surveyors and lawyers.
Consult with your local council and the other parties involved
You should consult with the Resource Management section of your local council (for the purpose of resource consents, the council is called the "consent authority"). The advantages of early and ongoing communication with the council cannot be over-stated. At the least, it may allow you to influence what conditions are attached to a consent if it is granted.
You may also find that your concerns can be resolved through consulting with the applicant and with other objectors. You may be able to reach an amicable solution in this way, without going through the formal objection process.
What notice does the council have to give of the consent application?
Unless the application is for a controlled activity or the adverse effects on the environment will only be minor, the council must give public notice of the application and must also specifically notify certain interested parties. The council must do this within 10 working days of the application being lodged.
The interested parties whom the council must notify are as follows:
- every person who the council thinks may be adversely affected if the application is granted
- owners and occupiers of any land to which the application relates
- the regional council or territorial authority for the relevant region or district
- any other iwi authorities, local authorities, people or bodies that the council thinks should be notified
- the Minister of Conservation, if the application relates to an activity in a coastal marine area or an activity on land adjoining a coastal marine area
- the Minister of Fisheries, if the application relates to marine farming or a fish farm
- the Historic Places Trust, if the application relates to land that is subject to a heritage order or that is identified in a district or regional plan as having heritage value, or if the application affects any historic place, historic area, wahi tapu or wahi tapu area
If the application is for a controlled activity or the adverse environmental effects will only be minor, the council need only notify those people whom it believes may be adversely affected by the activity. Further, it need not notify these people at all if all of them have given written approval for the activity.
How do I lodge my objection?
Your are entitled to make a submission objecting to the resource consent application if the application has been publicly notified or if the council notified you specifically. You have 20 working days after being notified to make your submission.
Your submission must be in writing. It must be in the prescribed form, which is given in Form 13 in the RESOURCE MANAGEMENT (FORMS, FEES, AND PROCEDURE) REGULATIONS 2003 (SR 2003/153). Some local councils will have their own standard form for submissions.
You must serve a copy of your submission on the applicant, as soon as is reasonably practicable after you lodge it with the council.
There may be a pre-hearing meeting of all the interested parties to clarify or help resolve any issue. The meeting may be requested by the applicant, by the council, or by you or another person who is objecting to the application.
You can be required to attend a pre-hearing meeting, but only if the applicant for the resource consent agrees to this. If you are required to attend, and then with no reasonable excuse you do not attend, the council can refuse to consider your submission.
After the pre-hearing meeting, the chairperson must prepare a report that states what was agreed and what issues weren't resolved. The report can also set out the nature of the evidence that will be presented at the hearing, the order in which this evidence will be presented, and a proposed timetable for the hearing. The report can't include anything that was said "without prejudice" at the meeting. The chairperson must send the report to the council and all the parties so that they have it at least five working days before the hearing.
The council must take this report into account when it makes its decision on your application.
The council can refer the applicant and anyone who made a submission to mediation, but only if you all agree to this. The council can do this on its own initiative, or because the applicant or a person who made a submission asked for mediation.
Will there be a hearing?
The council does not have to hold a hearing about the application unless it thinks one is necessary, or unless either the applicant or someone who made a submission asks to be heard.
If there is to be a hearing the council must fix a starting date that is not more than 25 working days after the closing date for submissions on the application. If the application was not notified then the date for the hearing must not be more than 25 working days from the date the council received the application.
If you have indicated in your submission that you wish to be heard at the hearing, the council must give you at least 10 working days' notice of the date, time and place of the hearing.
For the factors that the council must consider in making a decision, see How to obtain a resource consent.
The council's decision
The council's decision must be in writing. It must state the reasons for the decision, the main issues that were in dispute, a summary of the evidence the council heard, and the main findings of fact.
The decision must also state the provisions of the RESOURCE MANAGEMENT ACT 1991 (or other Act or regulations) that the council took into account, and any relevant policy statements and plans that it took into account.
If the consent is granted with conditions, the decision must state the reasons for the conditions.
The council can impose any condition that it thinks appropriate, including requiring you to carry out certain work and to provide a bond.
(You can apply to the council for it to change or cancel a condition. For the prescribed form for this, see Form 10 in the RESOURCE MANAGEMENT (FORMS, FEES, AND PROCEDURE) REGULATIONS 2003 (SR 2003/153).)
Will I be notified of the council's decision?
Yes. If you've made a submission on the application, the council must send you either a copy of its decision or a notice summarising the decision, and must also tell you the time within which any appeals against the decision must be lodged. It must do this no later than 15 working days after the hearing or, if there wasn't a hearing, no later than 20 working days after the closing date for submissions.
If the council sends you only a summary and not a copy of the decision, it must make a copy of the decision available at all its offices and in public libraries, and inform you of this. It must also send or provide you with a copy of the decision, if you request one, within three days of your request.
Can I appeal the council's decision?
The applicant or any objector may appeal the council's decision to the Environment Court: see How to appeal a resource consent decision).
If you've applied for a resource consent condition to be changed or cancelled, you can also go to the Environment Court to appeal the council's decision in response to your application.
- If you intend to oppose a resource consent application, you should consult a lawyer with expertise in resource management law at the earliest opportunity. They will be able to explain the procedure to you and make sure that your submissions are comprehensive.
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