Wednesday 20 December 2017

The Importance of Timeframes – Resource Consent Timeframes That Is…

Christmas seems to be a magic deadline for people – apparently the 25th of December is the date at which the professional world as we know it will cease to exist and heaven help us if we miss it.

While Christmas is more of a perceived deadline for things, there are some real resource consent timeframes or deadlines that you should be aware of.   As over-allocation of our resources has become an issue, so has the methods by which councils can use to reduce over-allocation.  This is where timeframes around consenting are beginning to bite and councils are actually using their powers. 

Lapse Date and the Cancellation of a Consent

The first is the lapse date on a resource consent.  This is not the expiry date, but rather the “use it or lose it” date.  From the date of grant of a consent, you have up to five years to use the consent, or you lose it.  This is particularly important in over allocated water catchments for example as lapsing a consent is one of the mechanisms that a council will use to claw back over allocation.  You may apply to the council to extend your lapse date, but you have to be able to demonstrate to the council that you have taken considerable action towards actually using the consent.  The maximum extension that would normally be given is a further two years.

Even if a consent has been used before the lapse date, it can still re-lapse if it is not used for a five-year period after that, so this is something that you also need to be aware of.   This is referred to as cancellation of a consent. 

Renewal of Existing Consents

There are also important deadlines around renewing resource consents.  An application to renew a consent that is received by the council at least six months prior to the expiry of the consent is guaranteed to be given ‘continuation’.  What this means is that you can continue to operate under your existing consent until such time that a decision is made on the replacement.  Getting continuation is critical if processing the renewal is likely to take considerable time like we have seen here in Canterbury where renewal applications have spent years in process waiting on plans to be developed. 

A renewal application received after six months but before three months of the expiry date may get given continuation, but it is at the council’s discretion. 

Securing continuation also means that you have priority to a resource over someone else competing for the same resource.  So again, if we think water permits where a resource is nearing its full allocation, you want to be able to re-secure your access to that water ahead of a new user.   

If you find yourself within the three-month window, then continuation cannot be given, and you must cease your activity at the expiry date.  If you are in an over-allocation situation again, this may cause issues with your renewal, and there is a risk of the council not granting the renewal consent (another way to claw back over-allocation). 

Expiry Date

Once a consent expires, and if no application has been received by the council to renew the consent within the required timeframes, then you no longer hold a consent to undertake that activity or have any right at all to renew it.  If you find yourself in this situation, and you do want to carry on undertaking your consented activity, then you have to apply as if you are a brand-new consent.  In over-allocated areas, you may not even be able to apply for consent as many councils have now made it a prohibited activity to apply for consent in over-allocated areas.  Prohibited means that you cannot even apply to the council – the door is shut tight. 

These dates are all things that any consent holder needs to know.  A resource consent is not an unlimited right for unfettered access to a resource, or to undertake an activity.  It can be revoked by not using it, or by failing to meet the timeframes around the renewal process.  

Also, a small request from this consultant.  An application for resource consent can take a fair amount of time to prepare – even if it is for a renewal, the amount of information required to be supplied is just the same as it is for a new application.  Therefore, please give your consultant plenty of time to get the application in – it is no good fronting up a week before the application must be submitted and expecting that it can and will be done in that timeframe, and the same goes for that magic Christmas deadline…

By Keri Johnston, Irricon Resource Solutions
Phone 0272 202 425 or email