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District Plan Committee

Probably one of the most important tasks performed by any council is that of preparing the District Plan. With appeals to the Environment Court that are par for the course, the total time required to get a plan in place can exceed a council’s term.

Our Council wisely decided at its 8 December meeting to appoint two councillors to carry out the task – Peter French and Wynn Hoadley, but with only Councillor Hoadley having had any previous experience in planning, albeit not in this District, it was agreed that four outsiders should be brought in to assist the process. This was one of several options considered at the time.

On Thursday, Council will confirm the arrangements and agree to the people that are proposed to be invited to participate, and their terms of engagement.

So far, so good. Three invited members are Morrie Dunwoodie and David Taipari who need no introduction, and Ian Munro – a well respected Auckland planner. The fourth is Mercury Bay Community Board Chairperson Alison Henry who brings a knowledge of that area to the table.

The appointment of David Taipari is inspired, and confirms his indication to me some time ago that he has a good relationship with Mayor Leach. The stand-off that has existed for far too long between previous councils and Ngati Maru Runanga needed to be quickly broken down, and this is an excellent first step. Relationships of this nature are really a Mayoral responsibility, and the last two Mayors appeared both unwilling, and ill equipped to establish and maintain such a relationship.

The only quibble I have is with the appointment of Morrie Dunwoodie. Morrie has impeccable professional credentials and local knowledge for the task, but his role as Chair and driving force of the Mayor’s election committee should raise eyebrows.

I believe that despite precedents for such appointments (Mayor Len Brown’s appointment of several of his accomplices to lucrative committee positions is but one), that it gives rise to potential for accusations of “jobs for the boys”.  It is not a good look, and Mayor Leach loses credibility as a result, at least in my eyes. Further, Morrie’s halo may have lost some of its lustre. His past association with the development industry may further bring about suggestions of potential bias, but that remains to be tested.

In case you think that these are "voluntary” positions, the paper to Council on Thursday recommends that $35,000 per annum be set aside for remuneration of the outside members, who are to be remunerated “at their normal professional rates” plus expenses. No indication is given as to how this is to be funded, though I notice that the recruitment of a planner is in abeyance in the meantime.

All this aside, it is a good committee, and it should be encouraged to get on with the job, and bring about the changes that are so urgently required in order to ensure that our new District plan reflects the needs and aspirations of our community.




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