Waterview Connection Will Use New Consent Process


NZTA says the new national consenting process is being used to get the Waterview Connection moving because it “offers a focused and certain process that will deliver nationally significant benefits in a timely manner.”

The new process replaces the two step process but the public can still make submissions. The transport agency will lodge an application with the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) by June.

NZTA Regional Director for Auckland and Northland Wayne McDonald says the use of the new national consenting process would not affect the NZTA’s approach to consultation with those affected by the project.

“We recognise that this project will have a significant impact on the community and we are committed to continuing to work closely with residents on how it can best be integrated with the surrounding urban area.”

“This route was identified by Government last year as one of the country’s seven Roads of National Significance, and completing it will provide huge benefits for Auckland and New Zealand. The Waterview Connection is the final missing link to unlock its full benefits. We believe the revised alignment announced last December provides the best balance between the need to complete the Western Ring Route in an affordable way as soon as possible and addressing needs of the communities the road will pass through.”

Mr McDonald said that while completing the Western Ring Route was crucial for the region’s economic development, at a local level there was no easy way to achieve it. “Any major infrastructure project built in suburban Auckland will always be challenging and this one is especially so because the route to connect the highway network has never been clearly defined.”

Today’s announcement ends the debate about the alignment, now that NZTA has confirmed its December announcement. Oddly, that alignment seemed to go back closer to where Labour once was when then prime minister and Mt Albert MP Helen Clark began the debate. Design changes meant it will  require fewer houses and significantly reduce disruption to residents and commuters on Great North Road.

This alignment for SH20 from Mt Roskill to the Northwestern Motorway will reduce the number of houses affected to 205 compared to the estimate of 365 when the combined surface tunnel option was announced in May 2009.   The revised alignment allows the SH20 route to be shortened while making the tunnelled section deeper and longer. This refinement to the combined surface-tunnel route means the tunnels will be continuous from where they go underground in Alan Wood Reserve to where they rise to the surface to meet SH16 at Waterview Park.

It will eliminate the previous gap between the two tunnelled sections. Mr McDonald said building the tunnels further east without a gap between them was the most cost effective option for constructing this section while also responding well to community concerns with the previous proposal.

Keeping the tunnels deeper meant they could be extended further north which significantly reduces disruption on Great North Rd.  Construction on the project is likely to start in mid to late 2011 with an anticipated completion date in the 2015/16 financial year.

Here is NZTA’s explanation of its move to go down the new consent process:

What is the new national consenting process?

In 2009 the Government strengthened provisions in the Resource Management Act 1991 to streamline processes for decision-making on matters of national significance.

The national consenting process is where the usual two-step process for major projects (i.e. a council hearing, followed by an Environment Court hearing) is replaced with either one hearing before a Board of Inquiry, or a direct referral to the Environment Court.  Public rights to submit and participate remain unchanged under this process.

The applicant (in this case NZTA) will lodge its application with the newly formed Environmental Protection Authority, who in turn will make a recommendation to the Minister for the Environment on whether and how the application should be considered under the national consenting process.

Why use the national consenting process?

The Minister for the Environment is able to refer a matter to a board of inquiry or the Environment Court that is or is part of a proposal of national significance.  The national consenting process offers a focused and certain process that will deliver nationally significant benefits in a timely manner.

Who are the decision-makers on the national consenting process under a board of inquiry?

The Minister for the Environment appoints an independent board to consider the matter. The board will consider all submissions, hold a hearing, and make a final decision on the matter.

The board runs its own process and makes a decision independently of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and the Minister. In appointing a board the Minister for the Environment asks the relevant local authorities for suggestions for appointments to a board. However, the Minister ultimately decides who is appointed to a board of inquiry.

When appointing members to the board the Minister will consider the need for members to have knowledge and skills relating to the local community, the RMA, issues relevant to the matters the board will be considering, and tikanga Māori.

A board of inquiry must have between three and five members, with the chair being a current, former or retired Environment Judge or retired High Court Judge.

What is the timeframe for a decision?

All decisions by a board of inquiry are required to be made within nine months of the date of public notification of the matter.

This means a board must consider an application, hold hearings, consider the matter and make a decision within nine months. However, under the RMA the Minister does have power to extend this timeframe in special circumstances.

What are the benefits for NZTA in using the national consenting process?

Under the national consenting process the improved certainty as to timeframes for receiving a decision helps NZTA deliver on its responsibilities to plan, budget for and develop New Zealand’s transportation network.

Will NZTA be seeking to use the national consenting process for all of the roads of national significance?

Some of the roads of national significance already have substantial parts of their route designated for state highway.  As these require only relatively straightforward resource consents, or may entail minor adjustments to the extent of the designation, the conventional RMA consenting process will be used.

Why seek to use the national consenting process for the Waterview Connection?

As the Government has identified the Western Ring Route as one of seven ‘roads of national significance’ in New Zealand and the national consenting process offers a focused and certain process that will deliver nationally significant benefits in a timely manner.

When will an application be lodged for the Waterview Connection?

NZTA anticipates formally lodging an application with the EPA in the second quarter of 2010.

Why not just use the usual consenting processes under the RMA for the Waterview Connection?

Given the scale and range of interests in the Waterview connection, the national consenting process avoids the need for all parties to go through the hearings process twice – first at council hearing, and then before the Environment Court.  It also gives greater certainty to all parties as to the timetable for a decision.

Will NZTA continue to consult with affected communities under the national consenting process?

The approach to consultation remains the same under the national consenting process.  NZTA has committed to a comprehensive program of community interaction and engagement and use of the national consenting process does not alter this.

How do I make a submission to the Environmental Protection Authority?

After an application has been lodged with the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), and the EPA has made its recommendation to the Minister for the Environment, the Minister may choose to refer the matter to a board of inquiry, or the Environment Court.

The matter is then publicly notified by the EPA and a call for submissions is made. Any person is able to make a submission to the EPA on the matter.

How to write a submission

The hearings process

Under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA), submissions must be served on the EPA within 20 working days after the Minister’s direction is notified. The closing date for submissions will be stated in the public notification and on the EPA website. Submissions must be made in writing and the EPA will provide submission forms for this purpose.

Hearings will be held in public as near as practicable to the affected area. The applicant and submitters have the right to make a statement and present evidence at the hearing.

Where can I find more information on the national consenting process?

More detail on the process can be found on the Environmental Protection Authority’s website




  1. Steve W says:

    Jon - in a recent article, in the Western Leader I think it was, it was mentioned that there have been changes in the designated rail corridor next to this. Do you know what these are? (Corridor being the Avondale - Southdown/Onehunga Link surely).

  2. James Pole says:

    Excellent. The RMA has been a pain in the arse, so good to see there’s a more efficient process being set up. We may grumble about this in relation to road projects, but don’t forget it could also benefit rail projects as well!


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