The first of the National Government’s reforms to the Resource Management Act (RMA) regime will come into effect on 7 May 2009 when the filing fee for commencing most RMA appeals or inquiries in the Environment Court will increase from $55 to $500.
The fee increase will affect, among other things, appeals in relation to:
- decisions on applications for resource consents and notices of requirement for designations
- decisions on plans, plan changes and regional policy statements
- the change or review of resource consent conditions
- applications for certificates of compliance, and
- applications to transfer water permits.
Why make the change?
The reason given in the Regulatory Impact Statement to the Resource Management (Simplifying and Streamlining) Amendment Bill (currently before Parliament) is that low filing fees “do little to discourage the lodgement of poorly conceived appeals, and do not indicate to appellants the seriousness of the consequences and expense all parties will incur if the appeal proceeds further”.
Will all appellants have to pay the full $500?
The Registrar of the Environment Court can waive, reduce or postpone the payment of filing fees but only if:
- the person is unable to pay the fee in whole or in part, or
- the proceedings concern a matter of public interest and are unlikely to be commenced or continued if the fee is not waived, reduced or postponed.
Persons “directly affected” by a Registrar’s decision can, within five working days, ask an Environment Court Judge to reconsider that decision.
We would hope that the fee increase will reduce the number of appeals by encouraging people to think twice before embarking upon what can be a costly and time-consuming process for others. The $55 fee was too low to provide this discipline. Where the decision is made to proceed with an appeal, we would expect to see an increase in requests to the Registrar to waive or reduce filing fees. So far as we are aware, little use is currently being made of those powers.