The new six-month consent processing time frames will be introduced on 3 March 2015 when Part 3 of the Resource Management Amendment Act 2013 (the "Amendment Act") comes into force. This will have a significant impact on the resource consent process, which has been overhauled in an attempt to make the entire procedure more efficient and provide a degree of certainty to applicants. Although these amendments were originally proposed to hasten "medium-sized projects" the amendments now apply across the board to all resource consent applications.
The amendments clarify the information required for a resource consent application that were previously scattered throughout various sections of the Resource Management Act 1991 ("RMA"). This should bridge the gap between the information required by the applicant to lodge an application and the information required by a consent authority to determine that application. If an application does not include the proper information, a consent authority may determine that it is incomplete and return it to the applicant citing its reasons, within 10 working days (which is an increase from 5 working days).
The time for a consent authority to decide whether an application should be notified or not has also been extended from 10 working days to 20 working days (which includes the 10 working days to decide whether an application is complete). The notification category will affect the processing timeframe: a fully notified application with a hearing has a deadline of 130 working days; a limited notified application with a hearing has a deadline of 100 working days (however, an extension of time may still be sought in particular circumstances). Further, the RMA provides for the exclusion of any time incurred by an applicant to obtain the approval of persons who may be adversely affected by the resource consent application from the overall timeframe calculation. The amendments have clarified that the timeframe for this exclusion begins when the applicant gives written notice informing the consent authority that they are trying to obtain these approvals.
"Stopping the clock"
The amendments also revise the procedure of "stopping the clock". Previously, consent authorities could suspend the application process multiple times to request further information. This could lead to some uncertainty as to how long it could take to reach a conclusion. There is now only one opportunity to suspend the application process, and this must occur before the notification decision has been made. This will place a greater onus on applicants to provide all the correct information in the first instance and on consent authorities to thoroughly check an application for all relevant information prior to making that request.
An applicant can also request the consent authority to suspend a notified application for up to 130 working days. If an application is suspended for longer than this, the consent authority may return the application to the applicant with written justification as to why it has been returned. If that application is subsequently resubmitted, it is to be treated as a new application and the applicant may lose any priority it had over resources. These amendments aim to restrict applicants from tying up resources with applications that remain on-hold with little progress.
Hearing Procedures and Evidence
The timeframe to complete a hearing (including all adjournments) is now definitive; being 75 working days for a publically notified application and 45 days for a limited notified application. There is also a requirement for a consent authority to provide evidence briefs and reports to applicants and submitters at least 15 working days prior to a hearing. An applicant must provide their evidence to the consent authority at least 10 working days before a hearing, and if a submitter intends to rely on expert evidence they must provide that expert evidence to the consent authority and the applicant at least 5 working days before the hearing.
The amendments require more work at the front-end of the resource consent process for both applicants and consent authorities, but should assist both parties by providing a comprehensive framework for the processing of resource consent applications.
Please contact the Resource Management
team if you would like to discuss these amendments, require assistance with a resource consent application or require further detail on any of the above.