By: Annie Cao
Published: 2/12/2016
The Government has recently responded to an evolving telecommunications landscape as it continues to roll out additional national planning direction in the form of national policy statements (NPSs) and national environmental standards (NESs).
 
On 1 January 2017, the National Environmental Standards for Telecommunication Facilities 2016 (NESTF 2016) will replace the National Environmental Standards for Telecommunication Facilities 2008 (NESTF 2008).
 
The NESTF 2016 is another example of greater national direction on resource management matters. Earlier this year, we saw consultation on changes to the NPS on Freshwater Management 2014 and the introduction of a new NPS on Urban Development Capacity.  Our articles on these topics can be accessed via the following links: National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity not just for Auckland and Next Steps for Fresh Water: Consultation Document.  A range of other NPSs and NESs are also in the pipeline, including a proposed NES for plantation forestry, indicated for completion in 2017 and a NPS for biodiversity in 2018.
 
It is encouraging to see greater use of national planning documents to facilitate national objectives and priorities.  In the case of the NESTF 2016, it is the roll out of eagerly awaited ultra-fast broadband and broadband to rural areas.
 
What is the NESTF?
 
The NESTF 2008 was designed to provide a nationally consistent planning framework for low impact telecommunication activities.  Subject to specified conditions, certain telecommunications activities are permitted and therefore can be carried out without resource consent.
 
A review of the NESTF in 2013 showed that the NESTF 2008 had overall achieved its objectives.  For example, it reduced compliance costs for the industry and accelerated the entry of 2Degrees Mobile into the market.  However, the review also highlighted that as telecommunications technology was evolving rapidly, a number of key network activities were not covered by the NESTF 2008.

Consequently the NESTF 2016 widens the scope of the NESTF 2008 by classifying more activities as permitted.  This means that subject to meeting prescribed standards, network operators will not require resource consent for the installation and operation of:
 
•           Cabinets – the casing around equipment necessary to operate a telecommunication network
•           Antennas
•           Small cell units – devices that receive or transmit signals
•           Telecommunication lines
 
Additional activities now provided for in the NESTF 2016 include aerial and underground telecommunication cables, extra antennas at existing sites and antennas on buildings.
The prescribed standards refer to a range of matters, such as the structure's location, size, noise limits and radiofrequency fields.
 
Some of the standards will require compliance with certain district and regional rules, such as rules relating to tree protection, historic heritage, visual amenity landscapes, outstanding natural landscapes, significant habitats for indigenous vegetation and fauna, coastal protection and earthworks.  These standards retain some local planning input and reduce the adverse effects of telecommunication structures.
 
For advice on how the NESTF 2016 may affect you, or for information on any other proposed NPS or NES, please contact one of the team to discuss.
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