Pre-application consultation within the resource consent process : public participation within the Resource Management Act 1991
This report was prepared in partial fulfilment of the Master of Science (Resource Management) degree, for the Environmental Management and Design Division within Lincoln University. The research is principally aimed towards the Ministry for the Environment, however the findings will also be of interest to regional and local authorities. The essential role that public participation has to play in environmental management is arguably under-realised. This is evident by the number of complaints made by lobby groups concerning the lack of public participation in environmental decision making. Pre-application consultation within the resource consent process is one way of allowing the public to participate, however the ways in which applicants consult at the pre-application stage of the consent process vary in method and effectiveness. Due to the informal nature and various approaches to consultation, the extent and quality of current pre-application practices is largely undefined. Determining the quality and effectiveness of pre-application consultation as a public participation and conflict management mechanism is also necessary to provide justification as to whether or not public participation mechanisms within the Resource Management Act 1991 should be maintained and strengthened. At the time of writing this report substantial changes to the Act have been proposed which, according to some views, lessen existing public participation provisions. Therefore, the aim of this research project has been to determine current pre-application consultation practices within the resource consent process, and their effectiveness as public participation and conflict management mechanisms. The research in general reveals that while pre-application consultation practices vary in effectiveness, they have potential to be used more often to actively involve affected parties, iwi and the public to diffuse potential conflicts. The results further indicate that pre-application consultation can achieve positive outcomes, and practice is continually improving with increased public understanding of the resource consent process. Overall, evidence indicating the value of pre-application consultation as a public participation mechanism, worthy of strengthening rather than weakening within the RMA is provided within the report. The following recommendations have been made to improve the effectiveness of pre-application consultation as a public participation and conflict management mechanism: 1. The proposed changes to the RMA resulting in the restriction of public participation (in particular the notification and consultation provisions) should not proceed. 2. Further research should be conducted by the Ministry for the Environment, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, regional and local government, or post-graduate students within tertiary institutions into pre-application consultation according to the research agenda outlined in 5.4. 3. The Ministry for the Environment should devise a working group involving representatives from local and regional government, public interest groups, tangata whenua and the development sector to develop a strategy for strengthening the use of pre-application consultation as a public participation and conflict management mechanism. 4. The public should be encouraged by councils to form interest or community groups to devise "common visions" for their areas in order to allow specific issues and concerns to be accounted for in plans and policies.... [Show full abstract]
KeywordsResource Management Act 1991; public participation; resource consent process; resource management; environmental management; pre-application consultation; notification provisions; conflict management mechanism
Fields of Research050205 Environmental Management; 050209 Natural Resource Management; 180111 Environmental and Natural Resources Law
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