All resource consent applications need an Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE) and most need a Cultural Impact Assessment.
Any effects, whether positive or negative, long or short-term, or when combined with each other, need to be identified. It is unlikely an activity will have no effects. If the Council requires a resource consent for an activity, it is because we anticipate the activity may have some effects needing to be considered.
What is an AEE?
An AEE is a written statement which identifies the effects of your proposed activity or activities on the environment so we can assess the likely impact of the proposal.
Effects on the environment that you will need to consider can be short-term or long-term, positive or negative.
You need to identify ways that any effects can be avoided or reduced, in your AEE.
It is a good idea to start preparing your AEE as soon as possible. This will help you identify information that may be required by us. Avoid a request for more information by supplying as much information as you can.
How do I rank or quantify an effect?
Determining the extent of any environmental effect is fundamental to deciding whether an application is to be publicly notified or be processed as a limited notification. Effects on a person or group are also considered when deciding to notify or limited notify an application.
When making a decision on an application, a more comprehensive effects-based assessment is undertaken to help determine if it’s appropriate. This assessment criteria is set out under section 104 of the RMA and depending on the activity, under section 105 which deals with discharge permits, coastal permits, reclamations; section 106 which deals with subdivisions and section 107 which also deals with discharge permits.
When determining the extent of the effects, it is good practice to think about the level of effects along a continuum to ensure that each has been considered consistently and in turn cumulatively. This continuum may include the following effects:
No effects at all
Less than minor effects
Effects that are discernible day-to-day effects, but too small to affect other persons.
Effects that are noticeable but will not cause any significant impacts.
More than minor effects
Effects that are noticeable that may cause an adverse impact but could be potentially mitigated or remedied.
Significant effects that could be remedied or mitigated
An effect that is noticeable and will have a serious impact on the environment but could potentially be mitigated or remedied.
Extensive adverse effects that cannot be avoided, remedied or mitigated.
Some councils use a similar scale to assess effects based on rating the extent of the effect with a number. Either approach to scale the significance of effects could prove helpful provided there is some guidance on how to apply the scales to different types of activities.
After consultation has occurred applicants may then want to consider whether they should either modify the proposal or introduce measures to reduce the effects. This is what is often referred to as avoiding, remedying or mitigating effects.
How to prepare an AEE
For large, complex projects we recommend you find an expert to help you prepare your application.
When preparing your AEE you will need to:
- Provide a good description of the proposal, the site and surroundings.
- Confirm why you are applying for a consent and confirm compliance with the rules.
- Discuss how your proposal fits with the Unitary Plan vision for that zone and how it meets the objectives and policies of the Plan.
- Describe any effects on the environment.
- Describe what effects your proposal may have on people.
- Propose any conditions that may help mitigate any effects of the proposal.
- Provide any specialist reports required to support the application.
Taking the time to prepare a good and thorough AEE will save you time and frustration later. Another source of useful information is the Ministry for the Environment website.