What is a resource consent?

A resource consent enables you to carry out an activity that you would otherwise be unable to do. There are national and regional rules for undertaking certain activities, and sometimes this means you need a consent. Obtaining a resource consent will provide you with certainty that you can do an activity. 

A resource consent allows you to access or use a shared, natural resource such as water, air, land or the coast, with conditions. 

The consent process considers the environmental impact of access to these resources and ensures that: 

  • any known effects can be addressed 
  • those planning new developments consider: 
    • potential effects on the environment 
    • potential effects on other resource users 
    • what precautions can be taken to ensure resources are not damaged or overused 

Who can apply for or hold a consent?

Anyone can apply for consent for an activity on any property, and the consent does not have to be held by the landowner. It’s common for a person who holds the lease of a property to hold consents on properties they do not own. An example of this is taking water for irrigation on leased properties. If you are unsure who should hold your consent, please get in touch with us by emailing consent.enquiries@orc.govt.nz or call 0800 474 082. Please note that gaining resource consent does not guarantee land access. 

How is ORC involved with resource consents?

We are responsible for managing and allocating the use of natural resources in Otago. We must comply with regulations and standards imposed by central government, as well as regional planning rules. The regional rules (which consents are assessed against) are contained in these plans: 

These plans have been developed in consultation with the community.

The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) also applies when assessing consents. Where a regional rule states that a consent is required to perform an activity (like taking water for irrigation, building a structure on the coast, or discharging contaminants to land), you must apply to us for a consent. If a consent is not required, there may still be some conditions surrounding your activity. If you’re unsure, please email consent.enquiries@orc.govt.nz or call 0800 474 082.

When you apply for a consent, we will assess your application against the relevant regional plans and the RMA. Some consents are reasonably straightforward, and others will require agreement from various people or groups. We often work with the Department of Conservation, Fish and Game, tangata whenua or members of the public.

As a consent holder, you will have ongoing contact with us even after your consent is granted. We have a responsibility to monitor your consented activities to ensure that there are no adverse environmental effects, and check that you are complying with the conditions of the consent. Our team is available to discuss your individual circumstances and advise you of your ongoing consent requirements.

Some activities may also require consent from your city or district council, if this is a larger application it may be processed at the same time with both councils. Some examples of this are:

  • Land disturbance at a contaminated site
  • Defence against water/residential development
  • Stormwater discharge
  • Septic tank installation


Page last updated 5 July 2024.