How to: Get resource consent

RESOURCE CONSENT: It can send you upside-down, inside-out and into a spin!
Julian Smith

RESOURCE CONSENT: It can send you upside-down, inside-out and into a spin!

We're building a house in West Auckland, and this week it is all about getting resource consent. 

This is where if you've gone for a design-and-build option, you can sit back and take another drink of fine beer while laughing at the stupidity of people who want to be all special with their one-off designs.

New-build plans and even decent-sized extensions will often require both building and resource consent, and if it's not in a build package you'll need to sort it and/or pay for it . . . yourself.

What's it for?

A resource consent gives approval for things like the use or subdivision of land, the taking of water, the discharge of contaminants in water, soil or air, or the use or occupation of coastal space.

So you could say it's to look after the resources that will support not only your home, but the area you live in.

How do you get it?

You write an application that says why your project falls within the bounds of the Resource Management Act and relevant local regulations and policies, and you pay a fee.

In practice, most people get someone else to do that for them and according to Dr Roger Blakeley (chief planning officer for Auckland Council) there is an "expectation that you would employ a professional" for this process.

But when I looked into it, it was going to cost between $10,000 and $15,000 to get someone to write our application, so I wrote it myself.

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I did find a planner who gave me some advice, without which I would probably have been lost. Hats off to you, you fine, wanting-to-remain-anonymous, gentleman.

Doesn't sound that bad?

It seems to be a national truth that the consent process takes longer and is more expensive than you think.

The Act requires applications to be processed in 20 working days if they are non-notified. But every time there is an issue or requirement for further information, the council will "stop the clock", so this process can drag on for months - or even years (by which time I would have given up and settled in a cave, but that's just me).

Oh.  Better get it right then.

Yep. And for a newbie like me, navigating not only the Resource Management Act, but myriad relevant council policy statements was not exactly straightforward.

What was useful, and I'd totally recommend, was going to a pre-application advice meeting.

It's often an extra fee ($265 in Auckland, but less and even free in some other regions) but the council planner will point you to most of the relevant statutes and policies your project will likely touch on.

You then need to address how your project won't have an adverse effect on them, or that the effects will be minimal.

If I was doing it again I'd do this way earlier, and I'd ask for more advice throughout the process. But the wheels of council move slowly, so if you're pushing to get things going . . . well, good luck.

The curly bits.

One of the policies that was applicable to our site noted that we "may require a Cultural Impact Assessment (CIA)".

In Auckland, that now means consultation with all the iwi in the area, a bunch of time, and some serious fees.

I will not tell a lie. My heart dropped close to my socks.

According to Dr Blakeley, the council appreciate that this might feel like a challenging process so they provide a facilitation service to liaise with iwi on your behalf.

However the problem, as I discovered, is that if you might require a CIA rather than being required to have one, you're on your own. In effect I needed to consult with iwi about whether I would need to consult with iwi. Neat.

Happily the men and women offering to consult on this process were almost uniformly awesome. I have to give a shout out to Edward Ashby from Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority in particular, who spent a bunch of time providing advice.

But despite the council having an "expectation that there will be no charge for this type of consultation unless site visits are required", says Dr. Blakeley, we got stung $450 for a three-line "report" which we were told wouldn't be provided unless we paid one of the nominated consultants.

Dr. Blakeley has promised he's looking into it, so hopefully if you're heading down this same path, it won't happen again.

How much does it cost?

If you hire an expert you can add around $10,000 to your council fees and these vary depending on your region. Ours was an initial charge of $2500 then another fee of $326.

But we got there in the end.

For all the stress of getting the thing written and submitted, it took 23 (working) days to be approved. Would I do this part myself again? Now that I know how, maybe.

But without advice this process is not straightforward.

Michele Powles is a writer and mother of a Lego engineer and destruction specialist. You can read more about their New Build Love over at buildingboxes.co.nz or on Facebook

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 - Stuff

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