Some consent applications may require public notification depending the significance of the proposal. These are known as 'notified' resource consent applications.
Notified resource consent applications include a 20 working day notice period within which people can make written submissions to the Council about a proposal.
A submission can support, object to, or be neutral about a specific part of a proposal, or the proposal in its entirety.
Making a submission
A submission must be in writing and must contain the following information:
- submitter name, postal address and phone number
- why you are making the submission
- whether you support or oppose the application, or specific parts of it
- whether you think the decision should be granted or declined
- whether or not you wish to speak at a hearing
- the conditions you would like to see imposed on the consent if it is granted.
Find Form 13 (template for making a submission) here.
Send your submission to the Council and a copy to the applicant. The Council will acknowledge receipt of your submission. You may then be invited to participate in a pre-hearing meeting.
Tips for writing submissions:
- Focus on the points that are most important. Make it clear which parts of the application you are referring to (if possible, refer to a specific section or part of the application).
- Be specific. Submissions should be relevant to the application and the environmental, social or cultural issues relating to the resource consent application.
- Clearly explain how you might be affected, and how those effects should be managed. The submission can relate only to environmental effects, and not to trade competition effects.
- Suggest alternatives to the proposed approach, giving reasons why the alternatives are more appropriate.
When the period for making submissions is finished a date is set for a pre-hearing or hearing meeting. If you have indicated that you wish to speak at the hearing, you will be notified of the hearing date.
If you have said you do not wish to speak at the hearing, you will still receive a copy of the final decision at the end of the process.
Hearings and appeals
A hearing is a formal part of the resource consent submission process that gives the applicant, and submitters who stated in their submission that they wished to be heard, the opportunity to formally present their views to a hearings committee.
They are usually held when there are issues raised by submitters that cannot be resolved through mediation.
The first step is usually a pre-hearing meeting.
What is a pre-hearing meeting?
Pre-hearing meetings can be requested by the applicant and/or submitters, or by the Council. Pre-hearing meetings provide an informal forum for discussion between the applicant and submitters. Sometimes the applicant and submitters can reach an agreement so a hearing won't be needed.
It is not mandatory that a pre-hearing meeting be held. However, we encourage applicants to proceed with a pre-hearing meeting where issues of concern are likely to be resolved.
What is the aim of a pre-hearing meeting?
- to gain a clearer understanding of the applicant's proposal and its environmental implications
- to identify any additional information required
- to identify and discuss the issues and concerns, including those of submitters
- to identify options that might resolve the issues and concerns
- to facilitate any ongoing consultation required to work through or resolve outstanding issues
- to potentially save time at the hearing itself, even if all the issues aren't resolved.
Who attends a pre-hearing meeting?
- The applicant.
- Submitters who requested to be heard. Submitters are strongly encouraged to attend the pre-hearing meeting as resolving issues at a pre-hearing meeting may mean that a formal hearing is not required.
- A chairperson, often an independent facilitator .
- Council staff, who attend the meeting to clarify any issues about the resource consent process.
When will the pre-hearing meeting be held?
Pre-hearing meetings are usually held as soon as possible after the closing date for submissions. Timing may vary depending on whether further information from the applicant or further consultation is required. All parties will receive a letter outlining the date, time, and venue for the meeting prior to its commencement.
Whenever possible, the meeting will be held at an appropriate venue as close to the location of the proposed activity as possible, for example, a local community hall.
Hearings provide affected persons with the chance to have their say about what an applicant for resource consent is proposing. Council hearings are a key way for the community to be involved in Council decisions about the environment.
Hearings are chaired by one or more Hearing Commissioners. The Commissioner is also charged with determining a resource consent application.
Commissioners may be generally classified as:
- Internal Commissioners – who are appointed from the Council
- Independent Commissioners – who are not a member of the Council, that is, appointed from outside the elected members or staff of the Council.
Elected members of the Council cannot be Independent Commissioners.
If requested by an applicant or submitter, the Council is required to appoint one or more Hearing Commissioners who are not members of the Council.
A council can appoint anyone to be an Independent Commissioner, but typically those appointed will have relevant skills and experience for the issue being decided (such as in planning, law, surveying, engineering or science).
When is a hearing required?
A hearing is usually required when issues raised by submitters cannot be resolved through negotiation.
If a proposal requires resource consents from Horizons Regional Council as well as Whanganui District Council, a joint hearing may be held. A joint hearing enables all relevant consent authorities to hear the same evidence at the same time, rather than parties having to present their information separately. Normally a decision will be made jointly but issued separately.
What happens before a hearing?
- All parties will receive notice of the date, time and venue for the hearing at least 10 working days beforehand.
- The Council's report and recommendations on the application will be circulated to the applicant and to submitters who indicated that they wished to speak at the hearing at least 15 working days before the hearing is held.
- Applicants must provide all their evidence to the Council at least 10 working days before the hearing. This evidence is circulated to all submitters.
- Submitters calling expert evidence must provide that evidence to the applicant and the Council five working days before the hearing.
- If any person intends to give written or spoken evidence in te reo Māori, the hearings co-ordinator must be informed of this at least five working days before the hearing so that a qualified interpreter can be provided. Alternatively, the person giving evidence may provide their own interpreter.
- We may be able to provide presentation equipment, such as a projector. Anyone wishing to use such equipment should contact us at least five working days before the hearing to make these arrangements.
What happens at a hearing?
- The chairperson of the Hearing Committee opens the hearing, introduces the parties involved, identifies the applications being considered and decides on any administrative details such as the hearing timetable and specific requests.
- The applicant (or their representatives) then presents their application and calls any experts they may have to provide evidence in support of their application.
- Submitters who indicated they wished to be heard at the hearing are then given the opportunity to present their submissions. They will have the opportunity to use experts or representatives to provide evidence in relation to their submission if they wish.
- The applicant then has the right of reply, to respond to any issues raised by the submitters.
- After the applicant has completed their reply, the chairperson closes the public portion of the hearing. The Hearing Committee members then retire to consider their decision.
- In some circumstances the committee may decide to adjourn the hearing to allow time for further information to be provided, or for further consultation to occur.
What are the rules?
- The applicant and every submitter who stated that they wished to be heard, may speak and call expert evidence at the hearing – either in person or through a representative such as a consultant, lawyer or technical expert.
- The chairperson or any member of the Hearing Committee may address questions to any of the parties at any stage of the hearing.
- No cross-examination of parties is allowed. In some cases, at the discretion of the chairperson, other parties may seek clarification of particular points by asking questions through the chairperson.
- If there are several parties who wish to speak on the same issue the chairperson may, in order to minimise repetition, limit the time each party may speak.
- The applicant's right of reply must be confined to matters arising out of the evidence or any legal points that require clarification. No new issues may be introduced at this stage.
What happens after the hearing?
The Independent Commissioner or Commissioner Panel must make a decision about the resource consent within 15 working days after the hearing. The applicant and all submitters, even those who chose to not attend the hearing or speak in support of their submission, will receive a copy of this decision.
You can appeal the decision or any of the consent conditions. The applicant or a submitter can appeal the decision to the Environment Court under Section 121 of the RMA 1991. An appeal must be made within 15 working days of the decision being made.