Before an application is received it is necessary to check a number of matters to ensure it is complete. Particular emphasis should be placed on only accepting complete applications under s88 which are in the prescribed form and manner and include an adequate AEE in accordance with Schedule 4.
The four key functions of assessing the application are:
- checking whether appropriate consents have been applied for
- checking whether all appropriate effects have been identified and addressed and whether there are others that need addressing to meet the requirements for AEE’s in Schedule 4 of the RMA
- determining the extent of the effects and who may be adversely affected
- Checking whether the additional information required by Schedule 4 has been provided, such as an assessment of the activity against the matters in Part 2 of the RMA and relevant plan provisions.
This assessment may be carried out both prior to receiving the application where pre-application meetings are held, and in greater detail following accepting the application as complete.
The formal assessment of the application for completeness to determine whether to accept the application or return it as incomplete must be made within 10 working days. If the application is assessed as incomplete, councils must immediately return it to the applicant with written reasons for this determination. However, councils have still have the discretion to decide an application is complete where some of the information in Schedule 4 has not been provided (i.e. when the information is not considered relevant or necessary to assess the effects of the activity on the environment).
For more guidance on section 88 and Schedule 4 of the RMA refer to:
A guide to section 88 and Schedule 4 of the Resource Management Act 1991 on the Ministry’s website.
To assist the assessment of applications it may be useful to develop a checklist for the council officer to work through.
It is also good practice for the council officer allocating applications to allocate them to officers with the relevant level of competency for each application. For example, more complicated or contentious applications should be allocated to the more experienced officers with simpler ones going to those with less experience.
It is also ideal for the application to be allocated to the council officer who dealt with the s88 completeness check if possible, as they will already be familiar with the application.