Environment Minister Amy Adams this week announced the Government's intention to introduce a six-month time limit on the council processing of medium-sized consents. 

Specifically, the Government is proposing a 130-working day (six-month) time frame for notified applications and a 100-working day time limit for limited notified applications.  This will affect developments such as large housing subdivisions, retirement villages, infrastructure projects, milk and manufacturing processing plants, surface and ground water extraction and gravel extraction, and new retail or industrial developments.  Timeframes will still be able to be extended under the current tests in the RMA – ie if special circumstances apply or if the applicant agrees (section 37).

The proposed six-month time limit will not change the current 20-day submission period, and requirements for lodging a complete application with the council will be clarified so that processing can begin early without reducing the amount of information and evidence considered by the council.  Councils will still have the opportunity to ask for further information from applicants.

The proposed change is aimed at avoiding unnecessary costs and delays in consent processing (the average time currently taken to reach a decision on a medium sized consent is about nine months).  The change falls within one of the four main work streams the Government has committed to as part of its response to the Productivity Commission's recommendations for improving housing affordability in New Zealand.

The change is to be included in the Government’s Resource Management Reform Bill, to be introduced later this year.

The Government has identified resource management reform as a key focus area of its Business Growth Agenda.  More information about the Government's proposed process of wider reform and its consultation agenda will be announced by Ms Adams before the end of the year.

Options the Government is considering for broader reform include:

  • having one resource management plan per local authority to deliver more co-ordination between land-use planning, infrastructure and transport investment; and
  • supporting councils with consistent approaches to planning future areas for development and more efficient planning processes