When do I notify (issue) the decision?
Section 114 of the RMA requires a council to serve a copy of its decision on the applicant, every person who made a submission, and any other persons or authorities the council considers to be appropriate. This notice must also contain a statement of the timeframe in which an appeal against a decision may be lodged. As outlined under the s113 requirements, the decision must be in writing.
Section 115 of the RMA outlines the time limits for notification of a decision. These are:
- 15 working days after the close of the hearing.
- If the application was non-notified and no hearing was held, then notification of the decision must occur no later than 20 working days after the date the application was first lodged (excluding any period when the processing clock was stopped for further information).
- If the application was notified but no hearing was held, notification of the decision must occur no later than 20 working days after the closing date of submissions.
- If the application was notified and a hearing is held, then the decision must occur 15 working days from the close of submissions.
- Where it is decided under s87D that a request for direct referral is to be determined by the council and a hearing is not held, notification of the decision must occur no later than 20 working days after the date on which the council knows s87I applies. This is the same timeframe between the close of submissions and the issue of a decision as a normal publicly or limited notified consent that does not go to a hearing as set out by section 115(4).
How do I notify the applicant of the decision?
Decisions must be served to an electronic address (if provided). If an electronic address is not provided, it can be served by post, by hand, or by leaving it at a document exchange, or faxed. Where a decision is sent by post it is normally deemed to have been received by the person at the time at which the letter would have been delivered in the ordinary course of the post (s352(5)).
The decision letter must include a copy of the decision including any consent conditions imposed. It must also inform the applicant of the right of appeal to the environment court (s120) and/or objection to the council (s357) and of the 15 working day time frame within which to lodge an appeal/objection should the decision not be satisfactory.
With non-notified resource consents, the decision letter should advise that the resource consent commences immediately unless an objection is lodged. If an objection is made under s357A, the resource consent can only commence once the objection and any appeal under s358, has been decided on, or withdrawn.
With notified resource consents, the decision letter should advise that until the period for lodging appeals is up (15 working days from the date the applicant received notice of the decision), the consent holder must not commence the consent. The applicant cannot commence the consent until the time for lodging appeals expires and no appeals have been lodged, or until the Environment Court determines that the appeals be withdrawn.
If the consent is granted, the decision letter should also advise the applicant of the consent expiry/lapse date. In accordance with s125, a resource consent lapses on the date specified in the consent or five years after the date of commencement of the consent (three years if the consent is for aquaculture activities in the coastal marine area), unless the consent has been given effect to or unless the applicant applies to the council to extend the consent period.
In addition to notifying the applicant of the decision, some councils also include details of the charges the applicant has incurred. This is best attached as an invoice rather than detailed in the letter. The letter should at least indicate to the applicant that an invoice will be sent separately. If the consent application was approved, the invoice may also need to include any charges associated with monitoring the consent.
How do I notify the submitters of the decision?
Submitters are notified of the decision in the same way as applicants – via an electronic address for service (if provided) or if not, in writing, with a copy of the decision and any consent conditions attached.
If the application drew a large number of submissions and the notice of decision is somewhat lengthy due to the nature of the application, s114(3) allows a summary of the decision to be served (instead of the full decision). This option is likely to be only needed if a number of these submitters did not provide an electronic address for service.
If this is the case, the council must make a full copy of the decision available for viewing (physically or by electronic means) at all of its council offices and public libraries within the area of jurisdiction and the parties must be made aware of these locations for viewing. The council should also make parties aware that they can request a full copy of the decision and that it must be provided to them within three working days of a request being made.
As with the letter to the applicant, submitters need to be informed of their appeal rights under s120(1) should they be dissatisfied with the decision. Submitters also need to know that they have 15 working days from the date they received notification of the decision, to lodge their appeal with the Environment Court.
Section 133A enables an amended decision to be issued to correct minor mistakes or defects in the original decision within 20 working days of the granting of consent.
To help others referring to the file in the future, ensure all details of the approved proposal and plans, including the consent decision, are held together on file.