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Planning Permissions – Resource Consent or Plan Change?

By Kerryn Penn, Planner, Baseline Group | Feb 16, 2023

Are you looking to undertake a subdivision or development that is not permitted under your local District Plan? Depending on the scale of your proposal, and the extent of any non-compliances with respect to the District Plan, then you may require one of two permissions from Council; a resource consent or a private plan change.

A resource consent is a formal approval granted by Council for subdivisions, specific activities or when proposed buildings and activities do not comply with rules listed in the District Plan. Obtaining a resource consent allows you to build, use, or subdivide land in accordance with conditions of consent. These conditions ensure that any actual or potential effects on the environment are avoided, remedied or mitigated. Typically, a five-year lapse period is placed on all resource consents; if not given effect to within this time, then the resource consent lapses and can no longer be used.

Though a resource consent is the most common form of approval given under the Resource Management Act, is it really the right choice for you? The answer to this question is not necessarily straight forward, as there are a number of variables to consider. For example, if the site in question was rural and the intended future use was to transform the site into a commercial hub or small residential suburb, it can be assumed that this proposal is highly contradictory to the intended use of the site. Such expectations are anticipated and enforced through applicable provisions of the District Plan.

A privately initiated plan change seeks to introduce provisions or make changes to any existing provisions in a District Plan. Such changes can include, but are not limited to: the re-zoning of land; adding or removing an item to a heritage list; amending rules regarding building design controls; amending rules or standards which are out of date, etc. Undertaking a private plan change will of course have private benefits, however there are usually public benefits that improve the community in some way (greater choice in housing typologies, economic development opportunities etc). An application for a privately initiated plan change will require a significant volume of information and expert reports to support the proposal, which can also increase the cost. However, this option is also a long term solution that can have flow on benefits.

Navigating which is the best option for you, and which process is most likely to be approved by Council can be a difficult decision to make as there are various components to consider, as outlined above. A land development expert, such as a planner, can provide you advice based on their expert body of knowledge, local expertise, and awareness of central and local government decisions including relevant case law. It is therefore strongly recommended that you engage a planner to determine if a plan change or a resource consent is right for you.

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