Introduction to Consultation

There is no duty under the RMA for applicants and councils to undertake consultation for resource consent applications under s36A of the RMA. Whether to undertake consultation, and the extent and nature of consultation, is up to the applicant. However, consultation is considered best practice by the Courts and is often required to provide a full assessment of environment effects (AEE) that must accompany a resource consent application. Schedule 4 of the RMA (Clause 6(1)(f)) requires that an AEE should include an identification of the persons affected by the proposal, the consultation undertaken, if any, and any response to the views of any person consulted.

Consultation generally occurs with people who may be adversely affected by, or have a specific interest in, a resource consent application, and is essentially a process about:

  1. providing enough information to an interested or affected party to enable them to understand a proposed activity

  2. discussing the resource consent application with them

  3. receiving any comments they might have on the proposal and, where appropriate, amending the proposal to be more acceptable to the consulted parties

  4. gaining all the necessary information to provide a thorough and complete application.

When consultation occurs, it should be made clear that the primary objective is a genuine exchange of information and points of view between applicants and people affected or interested in a proposal. It should also be clear that consultation is different to obtaining written approvals from affected parties as part of the notification/non-notification process, though that may be an outcome of the process following consultation in processing an application.

Although there is no statutory duty under the RMA to consult on resource consents, consultation can provide many benefits, including:

  • helping an applicant to modify a resource consent application to reduce adverse environmental effects and make it more acceptable (if possible) to affected parties or the wider community

  • helping to ensure that all potential effects on the environment have been identified and addressed in the application

  • providing information to the local community about a future change that may occur in the area

  • building better relationships between the applicant, the council, and any consulted parties, including tangata whenua

  • helping the resource consent proposal encounter less opposition in the later stages of the consenting process

  • producing a better proposal with more acceptable outcomes.