Welcome to the latest instalment of our bite sized blog series about the recent changes to the RMA.
The 18th of October is just around the corner. This is when a lot of the RLAA changes will kick in, including today’s special feature: Section 95 Notification. A.k.a how councils decide whether resource consent applications are:
The Resource Legislation Amendment Act 2017 (RLAA) was adopted by the New Zealand government in April 2017. It contains changes to 5 different Acts, one of which is the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA). Some of the changes to the RMA happened immediately, and others will go live in October 2017.
Not so good
New notification on 18 October 2017
Controlled Activities will not be publicly or limited notified unless special circumstances exist
The RMA will no longer require controlled activities to be notified in any way unless special circumstances exist. We don’t think there will be significant implications from this change as it generally aligns with the way district and regional plans already deal with controlled activities. Consent applications for controlled activities cannot be declined (Unless it relates to subdivision under s106). The matters that the council can take into consideration when processing controlled applications are pretty limited. So, controlled activities will remain a useful tool for Councils to manage the effects of relatively straightforward activities through consent conditions, now with the added guarantee that the activity won’t be notified.
Boundary Activities will not be publicly or limited notified unless special circumstances exist
The RMA will not require Boundary Activities to be notified in any way unless special circumstances exist.
As we mentioned in that earlier post, we’re not convinced that Boundary Activities are a great idea, but this explicit exemption from notification certainly aligns with the new concept of Boundary Activities.
If a resource consent application for a subdivision or a residential activity is classified as a Restricted Discretionary or Discretionary activity, they will not be publicly notified unless special circumstances exist
Residential activity is a term introduced through the RLAA and specifically relates to public notification. Section 95A(6) defines a residential activity as one "that requires resource consent… and that is associated with the construction, alteration, or use of 1 or more dwellinghouses on land that… is intended to be used solely or principally for residential purposes.”
If a subdivision is proposed a few doors down from your site, unless you are immediately adjacent (read: next door) to the subdivision site, you won’t get to comment on the application at all. This could be anything from a 2-lot subdivision to, say, a 500-lot subdivision. The effects of a small subdivision or residential development are unlikely to affect people beyond the immediate neighbours, so this notification change probably doesn’t affect how small subdivisions are already treated. But a 500-lot subdivision could have quite an impact on the surrounding area - certainly more widely than just the immediate neighbours. We don’t like that such a large subdivision consent application could be assessed by councils without hearing from the neighbours.
What are special circumstances, anyway?
Less community feedback, but more questions
Under the current rules, councils can already decide to exclude an application from being publicly or limited notified. So, what does this change aim to fix? This generic change assumes a one size fits all approach that we think won’t always be appropriate.
When communities and councils change/update their district plans, they could decide to make subdividing a Non-Complying Activity (check out that Activity Status diagram) to gain back the ability for the public to make submissions on them. Do you think the public will request this during plan reviews?
Some tools for council planners
amended with new step-by-step processes. The amendments basically complicate things from the processing side of things. We developed some flow charts to help one of our council clients navigate the decision-making steps, and we’re sharing them here for all of our council planner friends: