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The National Policy Statement for Natural Hazard Decision-Making and its effects on Resource Consents

By Rose Leighton, Planner, Baseline Group | Nov 15, 2023

A number of new National Policy Statements (NPS) have been proposed within the last year, with some of these now being in effect. One of these, is the National Policy Statement for Natural Hazard Decision-Making (NPS-NHD), which directly effects the resource consent process.

What is the National Policy Statement for Natural Hazard Decision-Making?

For the everyday person, the National Policy Statement for Natural Hazard Decision-Making (NPS-NHD) has implications, particularly if your property is located in a natural hazard-prone region. This policy encourages a more cautious approach, requiring landowners to ensure their developments are resilient and safe in the face of natural threats. Although it may complicate the resource consent process, a planning consultant can assist you in navigating these changes, making the process more manageable and ensuring that your projects align with the new policy requirements.

National Policy Statements allow central government to establish objectives and policies for matters of national significance relevant to the purpose of the Resource Management Act 1991. The NPS-NHD is currently in the draft stage and seeks to fill the current gap for national direction on natural hazards, through providing consistency on how local authorities identify, assess risk and risk tolerance, and make decisions. It holds a crucial role in ensuring New Zealand's growing communities remain resilient in the face of natural hazards.

How does the National Policy Statement for Natural Hazard Decision-Making affect Resource Consent?

Once this NPS is in force, decision-makers must have regard to it when making decisions on resource consent applications or plan changes. As a result, how Council will treat development subject to natural hazards will change, either requiring development to be avoided, mitigated or enabled, depending on the level of risk.

This NPS-NHD will require additional specialist reports to accompany resource consent applications, which previously have not been required. For instance, the NPS requires decision-makers to adopt a precautionary approach when determining natural hazard risk. They must consider if the risk is uncertain, unknown or little understood. More likely than not, they will seek the guidance of experts in ground conditions, flooding effects and other natural hazards to determine the level of risk. This can then inform mitigation measures for specific resource consent applications.

When a new NPS comes into effect, Council’s must give effect to it by updating their policy statements and plans, as soon as reasonably practicable. Invariably, there is a period in which the NPS-NHD will be in effect, but there will be no direction from Council’s plans or policies as to how it is implemented. This situation is particularly relevant for the NPS-NHD, as it requires Council’s to determine the level of natural hazard risk as ‘high’, ‘moderate’, or ‘low’, which may take some time to do so.

If you are unsure what National Policy Statements may need to be considered for your development or how Council is approaching resource consent applications in the interim before they are included in their policy statements, a planning consultation can assist. Through discussions with Council and previous experience, planning consultants may understand how Council may be treating a NPS in the interim after it has come into force and therefore assist in establishing the consenting pathway forward for specific properties.

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