Processing resource consents

The RMA gives Councils 20 working days to process and issue a non-notified decision, or up to 70 days if it goes to limited or public notification. Most resource consent applications are decided and granted by Council staff who have the authority to make the decision.

A working day means any day except for a weekend day, public holiday, and those days between 20 December and 10 January.

The information on this page explains

  • the processing stages consents go through
  • how long the consent is valid for, once approved
  • the conditions attached to the consent
  • when I can carry out my activity
  • what to do if I'm not happy with Council's decision

Consent processing stages

Acceptance of the resource consent application

When you lodge your application, it will be checked for completeness within five working days (see section 88 of the RMA). If it is incomplete, it will either be returned along with a refund of your deposit minus costs incurred or you will be contacted to provide the missing information.

If (or when) the application is assessed as being ready for processing, you will get a letter acknowledging your application, and advising you of the consent number, and the name of the planner who will be processing it. 

The processing 'clock'

The 20 working days (the processing "clock") is calculated from the time the application is accepted by Council for processing. It is important to note the processing clock may be stopped at any point should the Council require further information, written approvals, or additional resource consent applications.

Requests for further information

The first stage is a full assessment by a planner, which usually includes a visit to the site. At this stage, the Council may require further information (see Section 92 of the RMA). If so, you will receive a letter notifying you of the information being requested and you have 15 working days to respond either that you agree to provide the information in the timeframe, will provide the information but within a different timeframe, or refuse to provide the requested information. The processing "clock" will be put on hold until the Council receives this response or information.

If the Council does not receive a response within 15 days, it can continue to process the application on the basis of the information available.  But this could mean that the application will be rejected on the grounds of incomplete information, or additional conditions may be imposed to cover uncertainties of effects.

Approval from affected parties

The Council will determine if there are any neighbours or other people who are considered "affected parties". If you haven't provided written approval forms with your application, you may be asked to get the approval of any affected party (see Section 95E of the RMA).

Council's request to you for any approvals may be sent at the same time as a letter requesting more information (see prior section) or as an additional letter. You will be given an expected timeframe to provide these written approvals, usually 20 working days. The processing clock is put on hold until all approvals are received.

Additional resource consents

It may be discovered that further resource consents are required to carry out your activity. The Council will request you apply for these additional consents in writing. The processing clock will be stopped until all consents have been applied for so these can be assessed and processed at the same time. (See Section 91 of the RMA.)

If your application requires public or limited notification

Your application may need to be notified, either publicly or more limited:

  • If the Council decides that your proposal may have "more than minor" effects on the environment
  • If affected persons have not given their consent
  • If there are special circumstances requiring notification
  • If you request it

Council will advise you as soon as it has decided if notification is required, and whether it will be full public notification or notification limited to people deemed to be affected or having a particular interest in your application.

An additional deposit will likely be required before notification. Find out more about resource consent fees and charges.

Making the decision

If in the Council's opinion the effects of the proposal are no more than minor and if all affected persons have given their approval in writing, then a hearing is usually not required. Authorised Council staff will grant consent, usually subject to conditions and provide you or your agent a copy of the consent by mail. It is important you read your consent and fully understand the conditions prior to commencing the activity. You may also require other authorisation such as a building consent prior to commencing.

If the application goes to a hearing, the decision will be made by an appointed third-party commissioner(s) or by Council's Hearing Panel consisting of elected Councillors. The technical nature of the activity, Councillor availability, or needing an independent decision maker (if Council is the applicant, for example), usually determines how the hearing is to be heard.


Most resource consent applications are granted. Your resource consent decision document will tell you

  • What conditions Council has put on the way you may carry out the activity
  • Reasons for the decision
  • The main findings of fact
  • The key issues in contention and a summary of the evidence heard (if a hearing is held)
  • The relevant plans and policy documents considered
  • Whether you or Council need to monitor the environmental effects of the activity
  • Whether your resource consent has an expiry date, and what it is

If your application is declined you will also be sent a document outlining some of the points above. If you think Council's decision is unfair, you can lodge an appeal with the Environment Court under Section 120 of the RMA.

Objecting to consent conditions

You can object under Section 357 of the RMA. You have 15 working days from the notification of the decision to lodge an objection, which must be in writing, to the Council.

If you are not happy with the Council's reply to your section 357 objection, you can further object to the Council's Hearings Panel, which involves a hearing. If you still are not happy then you can take your case to the Environment Court.

The notice of decision letter will include full information about your rights as a Consent Holder, including your right to appeal the decision, and contact details for the Environment Court.

How long a consent is valid

The duration of the consent will vary according to the type of activity. Most land use consents have no end date. Discharges to air, land or water, coastal and water permits will expire in a stated timeframe up to 35 years. Most consents will lapse if not undertaken within 5 years. Consent holders can apply (see Section 125 of the RMA) to extend the time within which a consent is to be implemented.

Subdivision consents lapse after 5 years unless a title plan is submitted for approval, and will lapse 3 years after the plan approval if not completed.

When the consent activity can be carried out

You can carry out the activity in your approved consent as soon as the consent is issued and all other necessary consents and licences if required under different legislation have been obtained (eg, building consent, liquor licence, vehicle crossing permit).

For applications that were notified, you generally have to wait until an appeal period of 15 working days has passed before you start work on the activity to give people time to lodge an appeal with the Environment Court if they still oppose your application. If an appeal is lodged you must wait for the outcome before commencing your activity if authorised by the Environment Court.

To cancel or change the conditions of the consent

The RMA enables you to apply to change or cancel conditions of consent under Section 127. To change or cancel a consent, you must fill out a new resource consent application form stating what conditions you want changed or cancelled, including the suggested changes you want to make. Support your changes and include the reason for the change and an assessment of the effects on the environment resulting from the change. The Council can only consider the effects of the change assessing the impacts on other people and the environment. An application to change or cancel conditions may be processed in a non-notified or notified manner depending on the impacts of the change as described before in the consent processing stages.

Is the resource consent transferable

Depending on the type of consent, it may be transferable. Any consent to do something on the land (a land-use consent) is attached to the land and transfers to any new owner when you sell the land.

Other types of consent might be able to be transferred with the land to any new owner, such as a consent to take water. Whether this applies depends on what the consent, and sometimes what the NRMP, says. It's not automatic.

If you're not sure about whether your consent can be transferred, ask Council staff.