When Do I Need a Resource Consent?

by The FindLaw Team

According to the terms of the Resource Management Act 1991 (the RMA), you need special permission in the form of resource consent from the applicable local council if you wish to carry out any proposed activity which is for a use of the environment that is inconsistent with the RMA, its associated regulations and your local district or regional plan (your local plans).  Resource consent includes conditions to avoid, fix or reduce effects on the environment resulting from an activity.

Types of activities

ou should contact your local council to verify whether a particular activity is permitted or not within the applicable zone of your local plans to be affected by your proposed activity. Your local plans contain rules and other relevant information that will help you decide whether or not you need resource consent.   Activities in your local plans may be classified as:

  • Permitted activities – you do not need resource consent but if there are any standards, terms, or conditions for the activity to be permitted laid out in your local plans, these need to be complied with.
  • Controlled activities – you will require resource consent and the activity must comply with the standards, terms or conditions laid out in your local plans.  Your local council, however, also has the final decision as to whether or not to impose additional conditions on the resource consent to control the effects of the activity.
  • Discretionary activities – you will require resource consent and the activity must comply with the standards, terms, or conditions laid out in your local plans.  Your local authority will consider each resource consent application against criteria laid out in your local plans, and has the final decision as to whether or not to grant or refuse the application, or impose additional conditions on any resource consent granted.  For some activities, your local council may also have “limited” their decision-making powers set out in your local plans, to certain matters.  These are called “limited discretionary activities”.
  • Non-complying activities – you will require a resource consent and it will only be granted if the adverse environmental effects of the activity will be minor or if the activity would not be in conflict with the objective and policies of your local plans.
  • Prohibited activities – you cannot obtain resource consent for those activities that are recorded as prohibited under your local plans.

Importantly, the RMA allows you to take fresh water for your own reasonable domestic needs, drinking water for your animals and for firefighting, provided there would be no adverse effects.

Different types of resource consents

There are five different types of resource consents, which can be granted, depending on the kind of activity proposed:

  • Land use consent – is very broad in nature and includes activities like building and additions or alterations to a building, the use of a building, undertaking earthworks, major trimming or removal of a scheduled tree, constructing or altering a water bore, vegetation clearance, installing structures like bridges or using or disturbing a river or lake bed;
  • Subdivision consent – includes boundary adjustments or creation of two or more new freehold titles, cross-leases and unit title developments;
  • Coastal permit – for activities in the coastal marine area that do not comply with a regional coastal plan such as taking or using water from an estuary or the sea, performing works which will alter the foreshore or sea bed and diverting coastal water;
  • Water permit – for using, taking, damming or diverting water, or heat or energy from water, which includes, by way of example, taking and using water from a river, stream, dam, lake, spring or well, damming a watercourse, diverting surface water, jetty construction and commercial activities like fishing guiding and kayak hire; and
  • Discharge permit – for discharging water or contaminants into the water or land, or contaminants into the air.

The type of consent you need to apply for depends on the exact nature of your proposed activity.  In some instances, you may need to apply for more than one type of resource consent from one or more local councils.

Need help on this issue?

As you can see, there are different types of resource consents for various situations and many issues that impact on them.  If you are thinking about embarking on any activity that potentially affects the environment, you will need to have a clear understanding of all the relevant issues. Use the FindLaw NZ directory to help locate a lawyer in your area who can advise you on Environmental and Resource Management Law issues.

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