Any increase or decrease in compliance costs will depend on how councils and the Environment Court exercise their new powers. It is therefore not possible to estimate the level of impact the amendments will have. The only sources of compliance costs identified are the use of professional advice and the time spent by businesses to understand the regulatory changes.
More robust hearings at the council level may lead to short appeal processes and therefore a reduction in total compliance costs, since this is the area where more professional advice is sought. There is also potential for a reduction in costs if council hearing times are shortened through the exercise of certain powers (eg, if issues are narrowed through pre-hearing meetings and more control is exercised over submitters).
In some — but not all — cases there may be an increase in compliance costs as a result of councils exercising new powers and therefore conducting more robust hearings of notified resource consent applications. Business applicants may be required, or may consider it in their best interests, to present more detailed evidence at the council hearing. In these cases, council hearings could be longer and applicants may need to pay more for professional advice and the appearance of additional experts. However, for those cases that are appealed, any additional cost at the first hearing will be offset by a more focused process at the Environment Court.
Of the total number of resource consent applications each year, approximately 6% (about 3,000) are currently publicly notified and are therefore likely to go to a council hearing. The number of notified consents that involve business applicants is not easily identifiable, and this further complicates the ability to quantify the level of impact of increased council hearing powers on business compliance costs.
Currently, of the total number of resource consent applications, less than 2% are appealed. For business applicants in this category there is greater potential for overall costs to be reduced or transferred as a result of more focused hearings being conducted by the Environment Court. This is because less specialist time would be needed at this stage. The extent to which businesses go on to participate in appeal processes is unknown.
Primary industry and the construction and utilities industries are the business sectors more likely to be exposed to the RMA.
Increased compliance costs will be mitigated by a user education programme in relation to amendments to the RMA. Furthermore, the accreditation of decision makers will ensure that the chairperson of a council hearings panel will be able to exercise his or her powers so that a hearing is run more efficiently. This would help to minimise the time and costs spent in hearings.
Last updated: 6 May 2008