222. The RMA’s resource consent framework currently takes a ‘one size fits all’ approach to non- notified applications. The standard 20 working day process applies to a wide range of activity types that vary significantly in terms of scale and complexity. The result is a lack of proportionality. While the 20 day process is appropriate for the majority of applications, it can result in undue time and financial cost for applicants seeking consent for the simplest proposals. A corresponding burden falls onto councils, who have to undertake a full assessment even when considering simple, straightforwardapplications.
223. For simple applications, such as a minor house extension over site coverage and height, and other controlled activities under the relevant plan, a shorter process would be more suitable and better reflect their scale and environmentalimpact.
224. The proposal will introduce a truncated 10 working day consent process for simple applications. Controlled activities (not including subdivisions) and activities defined in regulations would be subject to the new ‘fast track’ process. There would be a new regulation making power to specify types of activities, or criteria for what would constitute a simple activity, which must be processed in the shorter timeframe. Applications for these activities would have to meet certain quality criteria before being considered for the fast track process, including being clear and complete, and accompanied by any necessary writtenapprovals.
225. The consent authority would have 10 working daysto:
· accept or reject theapplication
· make the notification decision (ifneeded)
· decide whether to grant or declineconsent.
226. If a hearing is necessary or the consent authority decides that the proposal should be fully or limited notified (including due to special circumstances), the application would cease to be fast-track.
227. This change will improve the proportionality of the consenting system by introducing a process for getting permission that better reflects the scale and environmental impact of simple activities. This is part of the wider objective of delivering a user-focused consenting framework that is efficient in terms of both time and cost. These time and costs benefits would be delivered immediately for both applicants and councils, and the regulation making power will allow the benefits of the fast track process to be expanded to other types of activities if it is seen to be effectively meeting theseobjectives.
228. A risk of the proposal is that applicants may decide to scale back their proposals, leading to a large increase in controlled activities. This has the potential to significantly increase council workloads.
229. Although simple proposals can be easily identified in practice, it is very challenging to set specific legislative criteria for what constitutes a simple application. If the criteria are too narrow, too few proposals will be subject to the fast-track process and the policy’s intent will be undermined. If the criteria are too broad, overly complex applications will be subject to the fast-track process, which could stretch council resources beyond capacity and even compromise the quality ofdecision-making.
230. There is also a risk that the quality of decision-making will be compromised if decisions are made hastily in order to avoid exceeding the statutory timeframes and incurring penalties under the Resource Management (Discount on Administrative Charges) Regulations (the discount regulations). This issue is considered to be the most significant shortcoming of the proposed fast-trackprocess.
231. An ultra-fast consent process for simple applications. This was considered to be unworkable as it would put a disproportionate amount of pressure on council resources for the time savingsinvolved.
Simple 35% and Councillist
232. This option would require every consent authority to publish a list of rule breaches that qualify for a 10 working day fact-track process. The regulations would specify that each consent authority’s list must be broad enough to ensure that at least 35% of all land use consents meet the fast-track criteria and are processed within 10 working days. No fast-track process would be specified in the RMA or regulations. Instead, the process itself would be entirely at the discretion of each individual consentauthority.
233. This alternative approach would enable each consent authority to develop a fast-track that is tailored to its specific circumstances. Enabling each council to define their own eligibility criteria reflects the fact that each plan is unique and individual consent authorities are best placed to determine what combination of rule breaches constitute a simple application. It is important to note that this may not be the case after plans are made more consistent through the nationaltemplate
234. The proposal is the preferred option as it is considered the most likely to provide consistency across all councils while being less onerous than some alternative proposals and still providing an adequate amount of time for quality decision-making. It has simple entry (and exit) criteria, reduced information requirements for lodgement and standardised reporting through a prescribed decision template. If councils respond to the new proposal by avoiding the use of controlled activity status in their plans, the regulation making power retains the ability of central government to address this behaviour if considered necessary. If regulations are developed, it will be appropriate to set out criteria to allow for monitoring of decision quality and to check whether criteria for ‘simple proposals’ have been set at the rightlevel.
235. This proposal will contribute to the objective of proportional and adaptable resource management processes by ensuring that consenting processes for simple applications are able to be scaled to reflect the specificcircumstances.
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