Assessment of environmental effects

When you apply for resource consent, you need to complete an assessment of environmental effects (AEE) so that you and others can understand what happens to the environment when you undertake the proposed activity.

The AEE will assist us in determining if the effects of your proposed activity are minor or more significant, and whether your application should proceed under ***non-notified, limited notified or fully notified*** consent procedures.

Information required in an AEE

Details of whats required in an AEE are included in the Fourth Schedule of the Resource Management Act. This is also included with Form 1: Resource Consent Application.

An AEE should contain:

  • a full description of your proposed activity
  • identification and assessment of any actual or potential effects on the environment of your proposed activity
  • a description of how the identified effects may be avoided, remedied or mitigated.
  • any monitoring that may be required
  • any alternative locations or methods for your proposed activity, if the environmental effects are likely to be significant
  • for discharges, a description of the sensitivity of the receiving environment and alternative methods of discharge
  • identification of and consultation with those parties who may be affected by your proposed activity.|

The application forms for various activities require details of effects that may occur as a result of that activity. When the application forms are fully completed, they may provide an adequate AEE.

However, the level of detail within an AEE should correspond with the scale and significance of the actual and potential effects on the environment. If the size of your proposed activity or scale of its potential effects is significant, you may wish to consider seeking professional assistance.

What is an effect?

In simple terms, an effect is the result of an activity. For example, diverting a stream could result in the following effects:

  • impacts on downstream property owners and riparian rights
  • impacts on traditional food gathering by local iwi
  • changes in vegetation adjacent to the stream
  • loss of spawning habitat for fish
  • flooding or erosion of stream banks.

Types of effect

In preparing your environmental assessment it may be useful to distinguish between different types of effects.

The Act defines effects as follows:

  • any positive or adverse effect
  • any temporary or permanent effect
  • any past, present or future effect
  • any cumulative effect which arises over time
  • any potential effect of high probability
  • any potential effect of low probability which has a high potential impact.

Where effects are defined as adverse, your consideration should include ways in which the effects may be mitigated. An important distinction must be made between actual and potential effects. Actual effects are those which are certain to occur. Potential effects include changes in conditions which make an effect more likely to occur.

There is also a distinction between direct and indirect effects. Direct effects are caused by a specific activity and occur at the same location. Indirect effects are caused by an activity but usually, occur either later in time or at another location.

Where to begin an environmental assessment

The process of identifying the work required to prepare an environmental assessment is called Scoping. This involves identifying the amount of information required. Three important factors will influence this:

  • the type of resource consent being sought (either a coastal permit, land use consent, water permit or discharge permit)
  • the size and complexity of the proposal
  • the sensitivity of the environment concerned.

If your proposal is not large or is unlikely to impact significantly on the environment, then the assessment of environmental effect may be straightforward, simple and short. The following four steps may be useful in identifying the scope of environmental effects:

  • develop a complete understanding of the proposal
  • gain a complete understanding of the affected environment
  • impose the proposed action on the affected environment and project possible impacts on environmental characteristics
  • consult with interested and affected persons.

Efforts made at this stage will assist us to process your application and save you time and money.

Things to consider when preparing an environmental assessment

  • effects on those in the neighbourhood
  • physical effects on the locality
  • effects on ecosystems
  • effects on natural resources
  • discharge of contaminants
  • risks to the neighbourhood
  • layout and format.

The format for an AEE should be simple and easy to follow. You should use a consistent set of headings and a summary.

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