Contestability in the resource consent process under the Resource Management Act 1991 : a study of opportunities for Māori within a contestable consent process : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Social Policy at Massey University
This thesis encompasses aa cross-cultural study that investigates opportunities for Maori in a contestable consent process under the Resource Management Act 1991. The research examines the existing resource consent process and speculates on how contestability as proposed in the Resource Management Amendment Bill 1999 could create opportunities for Maori participation in the resource consent process.
The consent process enables Maori to participate by way of consultation on consent application. Under the existing consent process local authorities have the sole discretion to determine the type and level of consultation in regard to consent applications. Resource user groups such as applicants and developer have deemed this discretion a monopoly in the processing of consent applications. Contestability as a recommended option would open the processing of consent applications to the private sector to enhance the consent process in terms of cutting costs and time delays presently experienced.
This thesis focuses on contestability in the contest of the processing of resource consent applications. The research was carried out in two phases: Phase one was a documentary analysis of local authority officers to examine the officers' perceptions of contestability and the consequences for Maori involvement in the resource consent process. A statistical analysis and thematic content analysis of planning documents and survey data were used to analyse the empirical evidence.
The thesis reached a number of conclusions. The research found that two resource consent processing provisions of the Resource Management Act, ss93 and 94, determine how local authorities will carry out consultation with regard to a consent application. Local authority policies on tangata whenua participation differed considerably from Maori aspirations set out in iwi management plans. Moreover, amongst local authorities, consultation with tangata whenua on consent applications has been inconsistent.
Contestability was identified as creating few opportunities for Maori participation in the resource consent process. In addition, consultation, developing new working relationships, funding, Treaty obligations, and level of skills were identified as potential negative aspects of contestability. The research recommends the use of several existing provisions (ss 33 and 34) of the Resource Management Act as alternatives to contestability. If used effectively, these mechanisms could improve tangata whenua participation in resource management processes. The thesis considers that the proposal to introduce any form of contestability in the consent process requires further research concerning the consequences for Maori participation in the consent process.