Consent delays could cost councils

The government is following through it’s promise to streamline the RMA with a proposal for efficiency incentives on the processing of consent applications.

In announcing the plan, Environment Minister Nick Smith said:

“Last year’s report on resource consent processing identified that 31% of resource consents were processed late and another 28% involved an extension of time,” Dr Smith said. “The report also identified that this problem had got progressively worse over the last decade.

“This new policy of a financial penalty on councils for late consent processing is designed to reverse this trend and get councils focused on providing a timely service.”

The discount regulations suggested approach is that councils must provide a discount of 25% for a consent one week late, with an additional 5% per week up to a maximum of 80%. The regulations also set out procedures for determining fault, and definitions to ensure the incentives are workable.

“It has long been councils’ policy that a penalty is loaded on ratepayers for failing to pay rates on time. If it’s good enough for the goose; it’s good enough for the gander. This new policy applies the same principle where the council fails to meet statutory timeframes.

“These regulations will set the minimum discount for lateness but councils will have the option of developing their own tougher regime if they wish. For instance, some councils already offer a free consent if late (i.e. a 100% discount) and will be able to continue to do so.

“This new policy is about recognising that time is money. New Zealand’s economic recovery cannot be held back by inefficient and costly red tape.

It would be difficult to quantify the cost of prolonging the resource consent process. But most applicants complain about the time taken to process applications and comment that a private business wouldn’t survive if they worked so slowly. One of the reasons for that is that private businesses are very aware of the cost of delays.

Incentivising efficiency, or disincentivising delay, will ensure that councils and their staff also understand the dollar value of delay.

It’s a policy that could well be applied to some central government agencies and their processes too.

More information on the proposal is available at the Environment Ministry.

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