Changes to information required on subdivision applications – Natural Hazards

One of the big changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA) is how natural hazards are assessed for subdivisions. You will now be required to provide a risk based assessment of all the natural hazards as part of your geotechnical report submitted with your subdivision application to address the requirements of section 106 of the RMA. 

Waikato District Council have sought some guidance from the Ministry for the Environment who have provided the following information to assist you with understanding what is required to be submitted: 

When you are engaging your geotechnical engineer please make sure that you are providing them with this information and that they are undertaking a risk assessment of the natural hazards identified in accordance with ISO31000:2009. We are aware that the above information provided by MfE is tailored more towards plan making than subdivision consents however the principles are the same for both.

Transition period over the next few months

If you are lodging subdivision applications that are affected by natural hazards and do not provide a risk assessment to address new section 106 of the RMA, we will initially be working closely with you and your geotechnical engineer through a section 92 request to obtain this information. In the new year we will be asking to see this information come in at section 88 stage and your application may be returned to you if you do not provide the required risk assessment in your geotechnical report.

Permitted Boundary Activities

From 18 October 2017 you may be able to apply to Council for a Permitted Boundary Activity if you meet certain criteria set down by the RMA. Our analysis of past consents shows that on average we processed only about 50 applications a year that would qualify for this new process. This is because most applications have another type of infringement other than a boundary rule - for example, earthworks or site coverage which do not meet the definition of boundary rule.

In order to qualify for a Permitted Boundary Activity you will need to demonstrate that you have one or more infringement/s of only boundary rules and you have the written approval of the neighbour/s of the infringed boundary/boundaries. To assist you with determining whether the rules you infringe are in fact ‘boundary rules’ as defined by the RMA, we have come up with a list of our District Plan rules that meet the definition. Please see the Interpretation Notes on Boundary Activities for the Waikato Section of the District Plan and for the Franklin Section of the District Plan.

If you do qualify for a Permitted Boundary Activity you can apply by filling out the Permitted Boundary Application formalong with the specific PBA written persons approval form and submitting it as described on the application form.

We will have 10 working days to confirm you are either a Permitted Boundary Activity or you are not (this could be either because you haven’t supplied the correct information, or you do not qualify). There is no ability for us to stop the clock and request further information from you.

The Ministry for the Environment has provided a flow chart and some technical guidance to help demonstrate how the Permitted Boundary Activities work. These documents are designed for use by Councils but will be useful to help you understand the process.

Due to the new streamlined process the fee for Boundary Encroachments with neighbours written approval has been reduced from $700 currently listed in the schedule of fees to $350. This fee covers all costs for processing your PBA and you will not be charged additional costs. However if your application is returned and you decide to resubmit a new application, you may be required to pay a new fee.

If you are worried as to whether you have the right information for lodging your PBA please check with the Duty Planner.  

 

Fast Track Resource Consent Applications

You may have heard that there will be a new fast track process for resource consents. The RMA changes set down that this process is only for controlled activity district land use consents. If your activity is a controlled activity and you provide an electronic address for service, you will qualify for a fast track process and your application will be processed in a maximum of 10 working days instead of 20 days. Our analysis of past consents shows that we processed only 20 controlled activity land use consents in the past year. Some examples of controlled activities include Resites and Dwellings in the Coastal Zone of the Waikato Section of the plan. 

Our land use application form have been updated to include a section that applies to fast track applications. Please see the Interpretation Note on fast track applications and what rules in our District Plan will commonly trigger a fast track process.

At the moment fast track applications have a lodgement fee of $1200 as a minor land use consent and any additional costs will be recovered. We are reviewing this for the new fees and charges schedule that will have effect from 1 July 2018. 

The Ministry for the Environment has provided a flow chart to help demonstrate how the fast track applications work.

 

Changes to Notification Assessment

How we assess if an application needs to be notified will change significantly from 18 October 2017. There are certain types of applications that will be excluded from public notification and, in some cases, limited notification. We have developed some Council-specific interpretations around these changes, in particular, what activities and zones in our District Plan meet the new definition under the RMA for ‘Residential Activities’ - click here to see the interpretation note. If you have a boundary activity that you cannot obtain neighbours approval for and therefore does not quality as a Permitted Boundary Activity, you can still apply for a resource consent where public notification is excluded (unless special circumstances apply) and only specific neighbours can be considered affected.

The Ministry for the Environment has provided a flow chart and some technical guidance to help demonstrate how the Permitted Boundary Activities work. These documents are designed for use by Councils but will be useful to help you understand the process.

Other resource consent changes to note

An electronic age

Electronic addresses for service (email address) are now the default. Please ensure you write your email address really clearly on the forms or, better still, fill them out as an editable PDF. We have been issuing resource consent decisions and correspondence electronically for a while now, so nothing really changes in our processes here.

Changes to appeal rights

New changes to the Act include changes to appeal rights under section 120. There is no right of appeal to the whole or any part of a decision for the following activities:

  1. A boundary activity unless the boundary activity is a non-complying activity:
  2. A subdivision unless the subdivision is a non-complying activity:
  3. A residential activity as defined in section 95A(6), unless the residential activity is a non-complying activity.

Changes to objections

New changes to the Act include changes to objection rights under section 357AB, which allows an applicant who has a right of objection under section 357A(1)(f) or (g) to request that the objection be considered by an independent hearings commissioner, at the cost of the applicant. Although we endeavour to run a process where objections are not necessary, there are times when applicants choose to lodge objections under section 357. In order to address the above changes we have submitted that a new fee for objections of $2500 be adopted through the Fees and Charges schedule beginning from 1 July 2018. This fee will only be payable when requesting an independent commissioner to hear the objection. 

Exemptions for Marginal/Temporary Rule infringements

You may have heard there is a new process where Councils may exempt activities from needing a resource consent for ‘marginal or temporary’ rule breaches. This process is entirely over to the Council’s discretion. For now, due to the number of changes required by the 18 October, we are not exercising our discretion to use these. During October and November we will be looking to developing a process around issuing of exemptions. We will update you further in the next Growing Places.

How to get the relevant forms

All relevant application forms have been uploaded to our website for your use on resource consents lodged on or after 18 October. Check them out here.

 

For more details check out the Ministry for the Environment information sheets that can be found on the their website.