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Council Reviews Proposed RMA Changes

Dr Nick Smith is determined to make the long promised changes to the RMA thought necessary to achieve accelerated growth in Auckland, leading to less politically hot house price increases.

But that is just the beginning - there are a heap of other 'heart-land' issues where changes have been demanded for a whole heap of other less immediate reasons ranging from reducing excessive cost and delays in achieving consents through to the reduction of uncomfortable hindrances on land rights.

As may have been expected, when our Council dealt with the draft comments on 14 April, there were a number of proposed amendments by Crs Brljevich and Goudie designed to give greater emphasis to these outcomes (all adopted!):

 Appeal options [proposed by Cr Brljevich] The Council requests that nothing in the Bill, including the new streamlined and collaborative plan-making processes, removes or restricts the ability for people to appeal the Council's decisions to the Environment Court.

Commissioners with experience in tikanga Māori [proposed by Cr Goudie] The Council opposes the Bill's amendment to RMA Section 34A to require councils to ask iwi authorities if there should be a hearing commissioner with experience in tikanga Māori.

Powers of Environment Commissioner [proposed by Cr Goudie] The Council opposes the amendment to RMA Section 280 that allows one or more environment commissioners to exercise the powers in RMA Section 279 without an environment judge being present. The role of a judge should not be replaced by a commissioner.

Limited notification of a proposed plan change [proposed by Cr Goudie] The council opposes limited notification of plan changes, as detailed in proposed Clauses 5A and 6A of RMA Schedule 1, as this compromises participatory democracy.

The other important issues that were taken up in the letter to the Select Committee were as follows:

1. Iwi participation arrangements The introduction of iwi participation arrangements to discuss, agree and record ways through which iwi authorities can participate in the plan change process is welcome.

2. Environment Court directions on provisions that render land incapable of reasonable use The Council supports amending Section 85 to allow the Environment Court to direct changes to plans where a proposed plan changes renders land incapable of reasonable use, or places an unfair and unreasonable burden on any person with interest in the land.

3. Financial contributions The Council believes that financial contributions through resource consent conditions is still an important safeguard to make sure that development pays for extension of infrastructure. While development contributions are appropriate for urban areas, they do not manage unanticipated development in rural areas that do not have supporting infrastructure planned in Long Term Plans. The Council requests that financial contributions remain an option for district plans for development in rural areas.

4. Fast-track ten working day resource consents The Council supports a more efficient resource consent processing system, but does not support requiring certain consents to be processed within ten working days. This would likely impact smaller authorities in requiring additional staffing, administrative and IT resources to bring online in a timely and efficient manner.

5. Ministerial power to remove restrictions on residential development The Council is very concerned with the scope of Section 105 in the Bill, which allows the Minister for the Environment to make regulations to prohibit or withdraw rules that would restrict land use for residential development. While the measure is intended to increase residential development capacity and affordability in large urban centres, this regulation power could potentially usurp the restrictions that territorial authorities place on small villages to reduce demand for new, expensive community infrastructure and to maintain the character of small rural and coastal communities. This is particularly important in the Coromandel Peninsula with many small isolated settlements and coastal areas with high growth pressure.

6. Territorial authority function to ensure sufficient development capacity The Council opposes the extension of regional council functions in RMA Section 30 to include objectives, policies and methods for development capacity of residential and business land. This is a district and unitary council function. If both regional and district councils have the function to manage residential and commercial development capacity, this will duplicate and conflate their respective roles. 

7. Waiving of consent requirements for marginal or temporary non-compliance The Council supports the perceived intention of this amendment but questions whether individual authorities determining what is 'marginal' and 'temporary' will simply, in applicants view, add inconsistency to the consenting process between authorities.

8. Fixed fees for hearings The Council supports initiatives to reduce costs of consenting for applicants. However the Council has concerns that standardising fees will result in applications costing more for some applicants and less for others and accordingly result in an increase in fee objections which will consume resources and time.

I have just extracted the headings on these issues, and underlined those issues that I consider to be most important from the point of view of our Council. Read the document (URL above) if you want greater detail. 




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