Next set of RMA amendments now in force

The Resource Legislation Amendment Act 2017, which was enacted earlier this year, made a number of significant changes to the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA), as well as other legislation.

The first set of amendments, which included changes to various planning processes, came into force on 18 April 2017.

The second set of amendments came into force on 18 October 2017, and includes amendments that enable a more permissive regime for certain activities, create new limits for appeal rights (in certain circumstances), and alter notification processes, particularly in respect of consent applications for boundary and residential activities.

Some of the more significant amendments that came into force on 18 October 2017 include:

  • Infringements of a “boundary rule”, which would normally require resource consent, are deemed a permitted activity if written approval is provided by neighbouring owners.
  • Activities that propose “marginal or temporary non-compliance” with certain rules are deemed a permitted activity, provided any adverse effects are “no different in character, intensity or scale” from a complying activity, and any adverse effects are less than minor.
  • Applications for controlled activity consents (other than for subdivision) can be fast-tracked, with decisions within ten working days. This fast-track process does not apply to notified applications, where a hearing is required, or if an applicant opts out of the fast-track process.
  • Resource consent and designation decision-makers are now required to have regard to measures proposed or agreed to by an applicant to offset or compensate any adverse effects.
  • New limits on the scope of consent conditions, which can now only be imposed where an applicant agrees, where there is a direct connection to an adverse effect or an applicable rule or national environmental standard, or where they relate to administrative matters essential to the implementation of the consent.
  • Additional reasons that an authority conducting a hearing can now rely on to strike out a submission (or part of a submission).
  • New limits on Environment Court appeal rights against decisions relating to boundary activities, subdivisions or residential activities (as defined), unless they are non-complying activities.

Significant amendments have also been made to the notification process for consent applications, with a step-by-step process now involved to determine whether public or limited notification is required, as follows:

  • The general discretion to publicly notify consent applications has been removed.
  • Public notification is mandatory in certain circumstances, but is precluded for controlled activities, subdivision and residential activities (if they are restricted discretionary or discretionary activities), or boundary activities (unless special circumstances exist).
  • Public and limited notification may be precluded by a rule or national environmental standard, or for activities prescribed in regulations.
  • Limited notification is required for certain affected groups and persons, but is precluded for controlled activities under a district plan (other than subdivisions).
  • The special circumstances test applies to both public and limited notification, with notification required where special circumstances exist.

Amendments have also been made to the notification process for notices of requirement, which has been aligned with the notification process for Board of Inquiry matters (rather than with the resource consent notification process).

Further information, material and technical guides explaining the most recent RMA amendments can be found on the Ministry for the Environment’s website (http://www.mfe.govt.nz/rma/reforms-and-amendments/about-resourcelegislation- amendment-act-2017).

Any queries on these amendments can be directed to the ADLS Environment & Resource Management Law Committee, by emailing the Committee Secretary at committee.secretary@adls.org.nz.

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