When carrying out any building work or activity on your land there are a number of different Acts that need to be complied with. One of these is the Resource Management Act (RMA) 1991. The main purpose of the RMA is to promote sustainable management of natural and physical resource in a way that meets the current and future needs of our communities. Under the RMA regional councils prepare regional plans that promote management of our air, water, land, and soil. City or district councils prepare district plans that manage the development and the environment. They contain guidance and rules about how you can use and develop your land. If your proposed activity breaches any rules of these plans/Act then a resource consent may be required.
If you propose to do something, which is not permitted under the RMA, regional, or district plans, then you have t o apply for a resource consent. A resource consent is a formal approval to carry out work which may breach some of these rules.
Some examples of where a resource consent may be required for your new build:
i) Breach of design rules, ie building height, boundary setbacks. In some zones council has design control over the appearance/colours of buildings.
ii) Subdivision. A resource consent is required to subdivide your land.
iii) Earthworks. If you exceed the maximum cubic meters for earthworks then a resource consent is required.
The majority of resource consents are non-notified which means the council makes the decision on whether to grant or refuse consent. If the environmental impact of the proposed activity is considered more than minor then it may be publically notified. This is where submissions may be made from the general public regarding the development. Sometimes only affected parties are notified such as neighbours who may be impacted by the building work.
Anyone can apply for a resource consent, however it is beneficial to have some knowledge of the RMA and regional/district plans. For relatively straight forward applications (eg earthworks) either the owner or designer/architect could make the application. However for more complex applications, such as subdivisions, it would be best to contact a specialized planning firm. They will be able to put a much better case forward on your behalf. Before making an application or to clarify whether resource consent is required you could discuss your project with a council planning officer. All applications require at least site plan/floor plan/elevations and an Assessment of Environmental Effect (AEE). Sometimes a geotechnical engineers report or a landscape plan may be required. An AEE provides an assessment of the impact of the proposed activity against relevant section of the RMA/regional/district plans. Once your application is accepted planner will process the consent and provide a report outlining the reason for the decision. The decision is usually reached within 20 working days (statutory requirement), however if further information is required for the council to reach a decision then the process may take longer.
One of the most important thing you can do before you begin the design process is to make sure either yourself or your designer is familiar with the specific rules/restrictions for your site. This may involve researching the regional/district plans, consent notices (any conditions imposed on the property by previous resource consents), and private covenants (conditions put on the Certificate of Title restricting or limiting certain activities or design).
If you have any questions contact your local council and planning officer will be more than happy to discuss your project with you. This can avoid costly re-design and time delays further down the track.
When you first apply, you will have to pay a minimum fee, usually between $500-$1000. After that you will be billed for any additional time that is spent on your application. For a simple application, such as breach of set back, $1000 should cover it. Sometimes there will be additional fees that relate to your application, for example - a resource consent for a residential flat on your property will be processed for around $1000, but then you will have to pay development contribution fees of $5000-$10,000+ depending on the size and value.
Once resource consent has been approved then you may carry out the work. However you may also need to obtain consents/approvals under other Acts (ie building consent under the Building Act 2004).
Having your resource consent approved means your one step closer to beginning your new build!
This article was compiled by Robbie Dick from The Draughting Company. Before becoming an architectural designer, Robbie worked for the Queenstown Lakes District Council as a building officer, and completed a degree in Building Science.