ORC Continues to Consult Fish and Game, Iwi, and DoC
ORC Continues to Consult Fish and Game, Iwi, and Doc Over Resource Consents
Otago Regional Council (ORC) director resource management Selva Selvarajah says there has been no change in how the ORC considers Otago Fish and Game (OFG) when dealing with resource consenting processes.
Dr Selvarajah was responding to reported comments by Fish and Game that it no longer enjoyed affected party status under the Resource Management Act entitling it to automatic notification whenever ORC is considering a resource consent affecting waterways.
The RMA defines an affected person as a person or a group of people who may experience an adverse effect generated by the proposed activity that will be greater than, or significantly different from, the effect on other people (the general public).
The RMA also allows councils discretion in deciding whether there are any affected persons associated with a consent application, and says they must be guided by their own discretion, the rules in regional/district plans, and the RMA itself.
If the council decides that there are no affected persons (in other words, that the effects on any person are less than minor), or where all affected persons have given their written approval, the application is ‘non-notified.’
Dr Selvarajah said ORC would continue to carefully apply these RMA provisions on a case-by-case basis when determining affected party status for applications. Under s95E of the act and where applicable, OFG would definitely be considered as an affected party.
“Each consent application is carefully considered in terms of who is likely to be adversely affected. We then notify those parties or agencies and advise them to get the written approval of those parties. This practice hasn’t changed and will continue,” he said.
“We do not deny OFG affected party status, nor do we prevent it from properly fulfilling its statutory role as manager of fish and birds living in the region’s waterways. In the last year OFG were considered an affected party for the majority of consent applications for waterway-related activities,” Dr Selvarajah said.
In the spirit of transparency ORC staff regularly forwarded decisions on surface water and related consents to OFG for their information.
“However, we cannot give a 100 percent assurance that OFG will always be consulted as an adversely affected party for every waterway application we receive. This applies particularly when the effects may be minimal or even non-existent because the applicant has proposed measures to minimise or avoid adverse effects in the consent proposal.”
Dr Selvarajah said several applicants had expressed dissatisfaction with the time Fish and Game took to respond to their consent applications.
To improve applicant satisfaction and expedite consent processing, where a proposal was likely to feature adverse effects, ORC staff had been advising applicants to send their application to OFG for approval in the first instance, as this would allow them to speed up their part of the process.
Overall, the number of consent applications ORC had received in the past two years had dropped substantially, which explained why other affected parties such as Kai Tahu Ki Otago had noticed the reduction in applications coming to them for consideration.
Dr Selvarajah said there had clearly been a misunderstanding. There had been no change to ORC’s approach since amendments to the RMA in 2009 and he would be meeting with OFG to clarify these matters.
ORC staff appreciated and valued the input OFG and iwi had into consent processing and would continue to work alongside them as required by the RMA.