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Negotiating with Neighbours Under the RMA

By Anna Bensemann, Senior Planner, Baseline Group Marlborough | Apr 29, 2022

As a landowner you may be approached by a neighbour to provide sign off on their project as it may affect you. They may want to set up a commercial activity that increases car movements on the road, or put a shed close to your boundary where it may shade your property. In any case, you have rights when it comes to deciding if you want to give your written approval (affected party approval) to a project.

As with any local government process there is paperwork involved. Usually, a Council form and copy of the resource consent application is provided. Sometimes, the consent application may have already been sent to Council, and Council have told the neighbour that you are potentially affected. You should always be provided a copy of the plans and written resource consent application when your approval is being sought. You might want to seek an expert’s opinion, such as a resource consent planner or your solicitor.

It is entirely your choice if you wish to provide written approvals or not. If you do, it tells the Council that either you’re not affected by your neighbour’s activity, or you are happy to live with any effects. When deciding on the application, Council is required to disregard any effect on your property if you have given written approval.

Written approvals cannot be conditional on the neighbour doing something they have not outlined they will do in the application for resource consent. For instance, you cannot write on the form that you give your approval, as long as your neighbour pays for the boundary fence. However, if you wish to negotiate a deal with your neighbour to carry out some works that benefit you, or ensure you are not adversely affected by their activity, we suggest either get a separate legal agreement is drawn up, or the neighbour amends their application to include the works before you sign off on the project.

If your neighbour has been told they have to get your approval, and you choose not to provide this, their application will be notified to you by Council and any other persons who were also identified and decided not to give written approval. This is called limited notification and gives you the opportunity to make a formal submission in opposition or support to the application to explain what the concerns are. If this progresses to a hearing, the neighbour will be required to pay for the costs of Council staff and decision makers at the hearing.

Negotiating with a neighbour can be a very stressful process. The written approvals system under the RMA enables you to choose if you are happy with the proposal or not, but only if you are considered an affected party. In any case, you are not obliged to sign off on an activity. The effect of not providing approvals is Council are obliged to give you the opportunity to make a submission, and must consider any adverse effects on you in making a decision.

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