The process

What is a resource consent?

A Northland Regional Council resource consent allows a person or organisation to do something which may have an adverse effect on the environment.

A resource consent may be required to:

  • Discharge waste into water, into the air, or onto land;
  • Divert a stream;
  • Divert or discharge stormwater;
  • Build a bridge over a watercourse;
  • Clear significant areas of vegetation;
  • Take water other than for domestic use, and most stock drinking requirements;
  • Undertake major earthworks; or
  • Build a wharf or jetty, or place a mooring. 

The process

During the resource consent process, you have the right to be involved and heard. If you feel you are not being given an opportunity to have your say, or you do not understand what is happening, contact the Northland Regional Council and ask for assistance.

The flow chart (below) shows the process your resource consent application will follow and the time you can expect each step of the process to take. The time frames are governed by the Resource Management Act.

When your application arrives at the regional council it is checked to make sure all the forms are completed and the correct fee/deposit has been paid. It is then passed on to a technical officer who will study the proposal to see if there is enough information to enable the application to be processed. If necessary, you will be asked for further information.

Once the necessary information is supplied, a decision will be made on whether your application should be notified or not.

Publicly notified applications

A publicly notified application is advertised for submissions from the public. If your proposed activity could have significant effects on the environment or on people living in the area and other users of the resource, your application will be publicly notified.

It will be advertised in local newspapers, and in many cases the physical site will be signposted. This process ensures that people who may be affected by your proposed activity have the opportunity to take part in the decision-making process by making a submission on your application.

Limited notification

If your activity has relatively localised effects but you are unable to obtain the written approval of all the affected persons then only these people will be given an opportunity to lodge a submission on your application.

Circled Calender.


If a proposed activity will have very little effect or only minor effects on the environment, a resource consent may not be required. It is best to check with the regional council before doing any work to find out if approval for the proposed project is required.

Some activities may require consents from a district council as well as the regional council. Applications to both councils may be processed at the same time.  

Council process

The Ministry for the Environment website has 'An everyday guide: Applying for a resource consent' with a diagram representing the council process that you may find helpful.

View the guide on the Ministry for the Environment's website

Preparing your application

NRC office.Applications for resource consents need to be thoroughly and accurately prepared before being given to the Northland Regional Council. If you do this, your application is more likely to be processed quickly and without delays.

Application forms, together with information sheets about what should be provided with the application, are available at the regional council offices in Kaitāia, Ōpua, Whāngārei and Dargaville. Please phone 0800 002 004.  In some cases, the forms will help you prepare your application in sufficient detail to give the regional council all the information it needs to make a decision. However, for many proposals, preparing the applications requires considerable time and effort. If you are having difficulty, please contact regional council staff for advice.

They may also suggest you get professional help.

Completing application forms fully

The application form will give you details about the information the regional council requires to assess your application.

All applications must include:

  • A location plan;
  • An accurate description of what you want to do;
  • An assessment of the likely effects on the environment, both positive and negative. This must include effects on land, air, water and on other people, and a description of what you intend to do to avoid, remedy or mitigate any adverse effects;
  • A record of any consultation with neighbours, iwi and any other affected parties; and
  • What monitoring you think is necessary, both while your project is underway and after you have completed it, and who you think should do it.

It is important that you refer to the appropriate information requirement sheets and supply the specific information required to process your application. You can submit your application form with the required fee/deposit to any Northland Regional Council office.

Examples of minimum plan and other information requirements for applications for coastal permits:

Example of minimum plan requirements for boat ramps (PDF, 447 KB)

Example of minimum plan requirements for simple structures (e.g. Jetty) (PDF, 229 KB)

Erosion Protection Works Guidelines for Tauranga Harbour
(Environment Bay of Plenty Guideline No. 2002/02 - PDF 1.2MB) 

Note: although this document has been specifically prepared for Tauranga Harbour, much of its contents are generally relevant to the Northland coastline and both professional and lay people are encouraged to refer to it at an early stage before finalising proposals and making applications for resource consent for coastal erosion protection works in Northland.

Council’s Regional Plans also provide detail on what information is required for different activities. View our Regional Plans in the resource library.

Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011

Consultation is required under the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 for some applicants, i.e. those with applications that relate to areas where customary title exists or has been applied for. For more information please contact the Northland Regional Council.

If you are unsure what information is required to process your application, please contact regional council staff for advice.

NRC staff inspect site.


Consultation involves talking to any person who may be adversely affected by your proposed project, or who may have an interest in the environment in general. This can include your neighbours, iwi, environmental groups, other users of the resource, and the Department of Conservation.

Consultation with tāngata whenua may also be required before the regional council can make a decision on a resource consent. The Resource Management Act requires an applicant to identify those persons interested in or affected by your proposal, and the regional council must ask what effects, if any, an application may have on tāngata whenua – the indigenous people of New Zealand. The regional council can supply you with the names of the appropriate contacts.

Checking water levels during 2010 droughtNorthland Regional Council Kaitaia Area Manager Peter Wiessing checks water levels during 2010 drought. (Photo: Northland Age).

If you are uncertain who to consult, contact the regional council for advice. Consider the following groups:

  • Adjacent landowners and occupiers;
  • Other users of the resource, e.g. downstream users of a river you wish to take water from or discharge contaminants into;
  • Iwi groups, local Mäori (tāngata whenua);
  • The Department of Conservation;
  • New Zealand Historic Places Trust;
  • Environmental groups; and
  • Any other people who are likely to be affected by your project.

Why consult?

Consultation will generally help smooth the processing of a resource consent application. Time spent on consultation before your application is presented to the regional council can mean considerable savings by avoiding lengthy and costly pre-hearings, hearings and appeals.

In your application you need to include details of who you have consulted with and the outcome of those consultations. If you do not supply evidence of your consultation, the regional council may return your application to you and ask for those details.

Steps to consulting

  1. Discuss with regional council staff the extent of the consultation you will need to undertake.
  2. Make contact with the people or organisations you wish to consult with. This is probably best done by starting with a phone call followed up by a personal visit.
  3. Keep a record of your consultation – who was consulted, the date, the topics discussed and any decisions reached. Include any information that may be helpful in presenting your application to the regional council.
  4. Report the outcome of any consultation in your application – the concerns of those consulted, your response to those concerns, and how you intend to address those concerns in your proposal.

If you require advice at any stage, do not hesitate to contact the Northland Regional Council.

How to consult tāngata whenua

The procedures for consulting different tāngata whenua groups will vary, however some general guidelines can be applied:

  • Identify the relevant tāngata whenua group(s) – the regional council can help you with this;
  • Write a letter briefly outlining the proposal, its location, why you want to proceed with the proposal, and indicate a willingness to discuss any concerns held. Enclose any information you feel may help clarify the proposal;
  • Follow up with a phone call to confirm that the information has been received and considered – about one week later;
  • If appropriate, arrange to meet to agree on the consultation process, to identify issues and concerns, and to share information; and
  • Keep a written record of consultation to submit to the regional council.

Where concerns are raised, you should try to ensure that:

  • Concerns are clarified, and are relevant to the proposal;
  • Options are developed to address these concerns, giving appropriate weight to the concerns of all affected parties; and
  • You seek mutual agreement on the best practical option to address tāngata whenua concerns, and aim to incorporate this into the proposal, regardless of whether you reach agreement or not.

Consultation does not require agreement – it is to allow you and the regional council to be informed about the views of tāngata whenua. If tāngata whenua concerns cannot be resolved and you still want to go ahead with your application, you must have made a genuine attempt to consult tāngata whenua in an open and honest manner. Their views must be recorded so they can be taken into account by the regional council when considering your resource consent application.

Rawhiti Marae

Tāngata whenua expectations

When you approach tāngata whenua they will generally expect that:

  • They have access to all relevant documentation;
  • There is a willingness to meet “face to face” and that their views will be respected;
  • If a meeting is agreed to on the local marae, any marae costs are met as part of the consultation process; and
  • You are aware of and consider any relevant Settlement Act legislation or Iwi Environmental Management Plans.

Tāngata whenua may expect you to commission and pay for a “Cultural Impact Assessment” report (referred to as a CIA). This is not a legal requirement but it is good practice especially in regards to large-scale applications and development, and/or any activity where it can be demonstrated that it may have a high impact on tāngata whenua.


The process handshake.Tāngata whenua are not the Consent Authority. They are interested and sometimes affected parties. While a “fee” may be required of you from an iwi authority or its members, you are under no legal obligation to meet these expenses. However, there may be circumstances where you could benefit by contracting the services of tāngata whenua in a similar way to those of, for example, an environmental consultant.

The regional council does not get involved in negotiations between a consent applicant and tāngata whenua. If you are uncertain about the need to consult with tāngata whenua, contact the Northland Regional Council for advice. 

What will a resource consent cost?

Application costs

When you apply for a resource consent you will need to pay a fee/deposit, which may cover all processing costs. However, if the costs are greater than the initial deposit you will be required to pay the additional expenses.

Annual user charges

Holders of resource consents must pay an annual resource user charge to cover the costs of monitoring, supervision and administration. If extra monitoring and supervision are required because of noncompliance with the conditions of the consent, this will also be charged to the consent holder.

Conditions and monitoring

A resource consent usually has conditions which control the way an activity is carried out. Those conditions are designed to maintain and protect Northland’s natural resources for other users, both now and in the future.

A resource consent is a legal document. It is the consent holder’s responsibility to meet the conditions of the consent. If consent holders do not meet the conditions, they risk enforcement action by the regional council.

The impact of the activity allowed by the consent will be monitored, either by the regional council, or by the consent holder, or both. You will be advised of any monitoring responsibilities when the consent is granted. The regional council may also carry out independent tests.

If you require any further information please contact Northland Regional Council consents staff.

Download the brochure

You can download this information in pdf format from the Resource Consent publications section of our Resource Library.