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How to conduct a simple yet effective resource consent planning check

Updated: Sep 6, 2021

A major concern for those preparing and submitting resource consent applications isn’t just what’s in the application, but what might have been left out.


Invariably, before submitting an application, we check and double check to make sure there are no missed rules or reasons for consent before submitting to Council and anxiously awaiting a response.


While it’s impossible to get applications 100% right all the time, I’m here to outline a practical solution that controls the controllables, saving your time and significantly reducing the risk of rejected applications and project delays.


Even if you’re a very experienced resource management practitioner, an effective planning check system can help you save hours, enabling you to:

  • Quickly identify which documents to consider/review.

  • Reduce unnecessary checking and rechecking.

  • Increase confidence by systematically reducing your chances of making a mistake.

  • Speed-up Council processing (they have to do a planning check just like you so recording your checks and submitting these with your application makes their job easier, helping to lower fees and speed-up processing.)


How to conduct an effective planning check.

Let’s start with a clear goal for our planning check:


To identify all the activities and/or infringed standards triggered by the proposal.


These are the reasons for consent, which act as the foundation to any resource consent application and help scope of environmental effects to be assessed.


While you may get away with missing some qualitative assessment in your assessment of environmental effects, you risk your application being rejected if there are missed reasons for consent, so a robust system, like the following, is essential to a smooth application process.


Generally, the process starts high level before narrowing down into more detail. This creates a nice linear flow where you’re not constantly going back and forth checking different Unitary Plan PDFs. Here goes:


Step 1: Use the Unitary Plan Viewer to identify the documents that apply to your application.


This is fairly straightforward. Record the following:

  • Any Zones, Precincts or Overlays applying to the address

  • Any neighbouring sites which have different zones or overlays.

  • Any controls/designations that may apply (keep an eye out for things like arterial roads which are shown on the map but do not apply directly to your site).

A typical outcome here could be:

  • H4 Residential - Mixed Housing Suburban Zone

  • D14 Volcanic Viewshafts and Height Sensitive Overlays

  • Property accessed from an Arterial road


Step 2: Check for relevant Auckland-wide (Chapter E) documents

This is less straightforward. The Auckland-wide Chapter of the AUP (Chapter E) contains 40 documents which could apply to any site in Auckland. These could be relevant due to groups of activities/works (such as infrastructure (E26 Infrastructure) or earthworks (E11 & E12 Land disturbance), or certain site characteristics (such as containing lakes, rivers etc (E3)).


Use a checklist to determine which Auckland-wide documents apply. I suggest listing application characteristics that trigger a given Auckland-wide document. This will enable you to systematically detect the Auckland-wide documents which may apply to your project so that you can carry them on for a closer look under the next step.


You can make a checklist with a simple word doc. On Rico we use a smart checklist that streamlines this whole process into a matter of minutes. I'd be happy to share a PDF copy of our checks if you drop me an email.


A typical outcome here could be:

  • E12 Land disturbance - District applies due to earthworks/excavations

  • E27 Transport applies due to new parking and access proposed on the site

  • E36 Natural Hazards and Flooding as the site is in a flood plain and contains an overland flowpath


Step 3: Distill documents into Reasons for Consent

Once you’ve identified all the relevant documents for a project, we can distill these down into the specific rules and activities relevant to an application.


Identify permitted and non-permitted activities

For each document, look at the activity table and identify all the activities, permitted and non-permitted (controlled, restricted discretionary etc.) that apply to your project.


You may totally ignore the objectives, policies, matters and assessment criteria in each document at this stage - they are only relevant to assessing effects once you’ve worked out your reasons for consent.


Check for infringed standards

Infringing standards will also result in reasons for consent, either as a general infringement under C1.9(2) (a general rule in Chapter C of the AUP) or a specific activity in the activity table.


Pay close attention here. Often, not all the standards in a document will apply to your application. Be sure to carefully read the activity table and the explanatory text at the start of the standards section for further clarification to ensure you're applying the right rules.


A typical outcome here could be:

  • H5.4.1(A3) - Up to three dwellings per site - Permitted activity

  • C1.9 - Infringed Standard: H5.6.9 - Maximum impervious area - Restricted discretionary activity

  • E12.4.1(A4) - Greater than 500m2 up to 1000m2 - Restricted discretionary activity

  • E27.4.1(A1) - Parking, loading and access which is an accessory activity and complies with the standards for parking, loading and access

  • E36.4.1(A12) - Habitable rooms in new buildings and additions of habitable rooms (greater than 25m2) to existing buildings in the coastal storm inundation 1 percent annual exceedance probability (AEP) plus 1m sea level rise area that comply with standard E36.6.1.1


Step 4: Check for ‘wild card’ items.

Finally, it's important to check off several non-AUP considerations which can pull the handbrake on applications for reasons outside of the resource consent process. These are as follows:

  • Restrictions on a Certificate or Record of Title commonly known as CTs can prevent specific activities and if missed, can result in big rework being required.

  • Landowner approval is required where your proposal involves works on property not owned by the applicant.

  • Works over approval. This is more common and less of an issue as it is typically addressed at building consent stage. Find out more here.

  • An exhaustive list of other considerations can be found here.


Conclusion

At the end of this process, you’ll have created a crystal clear record of an application's compliance against the Auckland Unitary Plan, helping you to confidently and correctly move through the latter parts of the application process while avoiding many of the problems waiting to trip you up.


Thank you for reading. If you’re looking to streamline your resource consent application preparation, and improve Council processing, Rico creates a clear, easy-to-use workflow for checking off relevant planning issues. You can check it out here.

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