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Source: Environment Canterbury Regional Council

We are anticipating delays in processing resource consent applications due to COVID-19 related staffing challenges.

Consent applications are now in a backlog. This means we are unable to process the most recently lodged applications as the team already has a full workload.

Until staffing returns to normal, we may not meet the statutory processing timeframes for certain applications.

Our consents team is also pausing its pre-application advice service.

New and existing applications affected

This will affect people who are applying for new consents, seeking renewals or variations to existing consents, or needing pre-application advice.

Delays should be expected in initial contact and longer-than-usual processing times.

We are still accepting applications, but they will be queued until they can be processed.

Consents planning manager Aurora Grant said the situation was disappointing but unfortunately unavoidable.

“We are proud of the record we have built up for responsiveness over the last few years – we are currently meeting our target of 95% of applications being processed within statutory timeframes,” Grant said.

Will this affect the consent application fee?

Consent applications are a user-pays service where the applicant creates the need for the activity.

We will continue to charge fees in accordance with our Fees and Charges Policy (PDF File, 468KB).

In some cases, applicants may be entitled to a partial rebate of costs in accordance with statutory requirements.

We must refund up to 50% of processing fees if statutory timeframes aren’t met on individual consents. This is calculated as a refund of 1% per day to a maximum of 50 working days.

Our consent process

We process the most resource consents of any regional council in Aotearoa/New Zealand – between 1500 and 2200 – with 900 to 1000 in the system at any one time.

“On top of this, we are seeing more complexity in the applications we are receiving,” Grant said. “We’re working hard to address the staffing and related challenges we now have in front of us and are in contact with those who may be impacted to ensure no one is unfairly penalised.

“Protecting the environment is always our top priority. We are committed to working with mana whenua, farmers and the wider community to ensure Canterbury’s water quality is maintained and enhanced.

“We look forward to our consent application service returning to pre-COVID levels as soon as possible,” Grant concluded.

Frequently asked questions

What if my consent is about to expire?

If your consent is about to expire, you should still lodge an application for renewal, as this will prevent your continuation rights from potentially being impacted.

You will be advised of the delay at the time of lodging the application. We are also informing consultants and stakeholders.

Will the environment still be protected?

Yes. Consent holders with existing permits are required to operate in accordance with the conditions of their current consent, until their new application has been processed and a decision made or they risk non-compliance action.

Continuation rights provide this for applicants even when there is not a backlog.

For new applications, an activity is not able to legally occur until an application has been decided and granted.

Can activities under existing resource consent permits continue?

Yes. If you have an existing permission you must follow the consent conditions until your new application has been processed and a decision made.

Continuation rights provide this for all applicants with existing consents even when there is not a backlog.

Can activities for new consent applications begin?

No. If you are applying for a new resource consent, you cannot legally start the activity until permission has been granted.

Will you continue to engage with rūnanga on consent applications?

Yes. Once a consent application is assigned to a planner we will follow our usual process, which includes requesting advice through Tangata Whenua Advisory Services.

We cannot proceed in consent processing without advice from our partners.