Resource consent processing delays due to Covid-19

Sections of the Act and effect on fees

Section 37A(4) of the RMA enables Gisborne District Council to grant an extension of no more than twice the statutory provided timeframe, without the agreement of the applicant, so long as the threshold of ‘special circumstances’ is met.  
The extension under s37A (5) will not trigger any discounts on the consent fees.

The Select Committee Report has confirmed that Parliament’s intention for ‘special circumstances’ included a pandemic.
See section 37A of the RMA and excerpt of the Select Committee Report.

Resource Management Act 1991 No 69 (as at 21 December 2021), Public Act 37 Power of waiver and extension of time limits – New Zealand Legislation

Where necessary an extension for greater than twice the statutory timeframes will be granted subject to the applicant providing their agreement.  Discounts to the consent fees will apply in these circumstances.

Resource Management (Simplifying and Streamlining) Amendment Bill 2009 - Stage 2 (New Zealand)
Extension of statutory timeframes

Under the current provisions of the RMA, councils may extend time-frames by not more than double, or, providing the applicant agrees, by more than double the current time-frames - currently 20 working days for non-notified applications and up to 70 days for notified or limited notified applications.

The recently published two-year survey of local authority performance under the RMA draws attention to the way different councils use section 37A for extending resource consent and other processing times. We are concerned that councils are regularly extending time-frames for relatively simple resource consent applications, and in some cases overuse the extension provisions as a way of dealing with large numbers of applications, or staffing and other resource issues.

We are not convinced that the measures in the bill as introduced will speed up processing while councils can avail themselves of the opportunity to grant themselves extensions of time. We therefore recommend amending section 37A of the principal Act (new clause 25A) by inserting a new subsection limiting further the ability to extend time-frames under section 37(1)(a) in the case of applications for resource consent and changes to consent conditions. The current provisions for extending time-frames for processing other matters would continue to apply. For consent applications the ability to extend time-frames up to double the statutory maximum would be limited to either special circumstances or to the applicant’s agreement to the extension. The intent is to ensure that lack of staffing capacity or access to expertise would not justify an extension without the applicant’s agreement unless this amounted to “special circumstances” such as might obtain during a pandemic. For a period to be extended beyond twice the statutory maximum, the applicant’s agreement would be required. In both cases the consent authority would also have to take into account the matters in sections 371(1)(a) to (c) of the principal Act.