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RMA Amendments - Timeframes for Resource Consents

New timeframes and provisions for the different stages of the resource consent process came into force on 3 March 2015. The basic components of the new process can be seen in the diagram below.

At a glance – new processes

Section 91A – Applicant’s power to suspend processing

This section allows an applicant to put their notified application on hold for up to 130 working days (six months) between notification and the close of a hearing. 

Section 103B – Pre-provision of evidence is mandatory

This section provides timeframes for providing evidence for a hearing:

  • The consent authority must make its Section 42A reports (Council officer reviews and recommendations) available no less than 15 working days before a hearing;
  • Applicants must provide briefs of evidence to the consent authority no less than 10 working days before a hearing; and
  • Submitters intending to call expert evidence must provide briefs of the evidence to the consent authority and the applicant no less than five working days before a hearing.

At a glance – changes to existing processes

Section 95 – Time limit for notification

Consent authorities now have 20 working days (up from 10) in which to decide whether to notify an application. This reflects the increase to 10 working days that consent authorities now have to check completeness and accept or reject an application (see our blog of 9 March on this). 

Consent authorities will still have scope to extend timeframes under Section 37A, taking into account:

  • The interests of any persons who may be directly affected by the waiver; 
  • The interests of the community in achieving adequate assessment of the effect of a proposal; and 
  • The consent authority’s duty to avoid unreasonable delay. 
Section 88C and 92(1) – Exclusions to timeframes while further information is sought

Only one ‘clock stop’ is now allowed for further information requests, and this can only occur prior to the notification decision having been made. Removing the ability to stop the clock following notification will help establish fixed timeframes for decision-making, and provide greater certainty over the process. Additional requests for further information can be made but the clock cannot be stopped a second time. 

For any information requests made after notification, the onus will be on the applicant to agree to provide the information and, if need be, place the application on hold. While consent authorities can at no time stop the clock between notification and a final decision (without the applicant’s agreement), they retain the ability to decline an application where they have insufficient information to assess the application. 

Section 97 – Submission period for limited notified applications

Changes to Section 97 give consent authorities the ability to close submissions for limited notified applications before the 20 day period is up, when all affected persons have provided submissions, written approvals and/or written notices that they will not make a submission. The intent of this change is to deliver time savings. By bringing forward the end of the submissions process, hearings can begin earlier, and as a result delivery of a final decision can be reached sooner. 

Section 103A – Timeframe between close of submissions and the close of the hearing

The timeframe for hearings is now fixed within the statutory timeframes: 75 working days from the closing date of submissions for fully notified applications, and 45 working days for limited notified applications.

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