Resource Consent 'Rules as Code' – Wellington City Council

Wellington City Council

Learn how Wellington City Council (WCC) turned resource consent legislation into code and a logic questionnaire to help customers provide more robust, reliable information to inform Council consent decisions.

Problem

A review of the resource consent process highlighted that the problems for the Council and customers were two sides of the same issue: the Council was getting low quality applications, while customers did not know what to provide.

Solution

The team turned resource consent rules into code, creating a customer Resource Consent Checker questionnaire based on a comprehensive logic tree model. This meant customers would be providing the Council with quality information.

Observations and lessons learnt

Collaboration with other government organisations

LEARN FROM EXISTING MODELS

WCC saw the potential for a new application of the "Rules as Code" concept, which has been already proven internationally and domestically, for example, the Holidays Pay Act review at DIA used this method. This is a tangible example of building off what already existed. WCC had a staff member (Nadia Webster) who’d recently come from driving the "Rules as Code" work at DIA. This expertise of the solution concept was vital to "join all the dots between the problem and an existing digital solution."

Internal communication

LEADERSHIP CHAMPIONS

Vital to the successful implementation and uptake after the proof of concept was having all the right people on board. The leadership team, innovation lead, and smart Council all needed to be involved. Make sure these needs are as clear as possible before the work begins, whilst acknowledging they may evolve over time.

Processes and adaptability

PROOF OF CONCEPT FIRST

Rather than build code for the whole resource consent process, the team first took five simple consent rules to test the concept. The team of four worked on it three days a week for eight weeks. The product is live and embedded in WCC’s existing website rather than built separately from scratch. All the tools they have used to date are open source.

It would’ve taken three times as long to educate someone without RMA experience.

Skills to innovate

SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTISE

The team benefited from the developer having experience working with the Resource Management Act. They weren’t just given instructions, they could understand and contribute to the logic. Educating another developer without the subject matter expertise would’ve taken much longer than the time that was available in the proof of concept phase.

CUSTOMER-CENTRIC APPROACH

The different mindsets of the team members meant they challenged each other’s world views respectfully to deliver an end product that worked for both customer and legislative requirements. Rule setters and technical planners haven’t traditionally thought about legislation from the user’s perspective. The team flipped this around to put the customer at the centre of discussions. This included addressing how language that aligned with legal terminology would be communicated to customers with simple explanations.

2019

MAR / APR 2019

Review

Review of the resource consent process with internal staff, and customer consultation.

SEP 2019

Proof of concept

Created the Resource Consent Checker as a proof of concept with five of the resource consent rules.

LATE 2019

Review

Review proof of concept with feedback from customers. This informed discussions about what next with management and the District Plan team.

2020

EARLY 2020

Funding

Funding to create the Residential Chapter of the District Plan as code (note: delayed somewhat due to Covid-19).

DEC 2020

Published

The Resource Consent Checker questionnaire is live on the WCC website.

2021

EARLY 2021

Review

Potential for full District Plan review.

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