AUCKLAND COUNCIL with George Wood
Auckland Council Unitary Plan - The Changes
GEORGE WOOD is a North Shore ward councillor on the new Auckland Council. The former three-term mayor of North Shore City lives in Forrest Hill with wife Myra.
Now that submissions have closed on the informal draft Auckland Council Unitary Plan, the pressure is on to process the material received. Council was hoping that the Unitary Plan could be finalised, after viewing the submissions, in sufficient time to get the plan notified prior to the October council elections. Whether this is possible is not known at this time. If the community sees few problems with the plan, and there is not a lot of work needed to make changes, then it would be possible. If a lot of work is required, which I suspect is the case, then it will not be a quick process.
This has been a busy time as an elected member of Council as meetings
have been occurring virtually on a daily basis all around the Auckland region.
But I must say, the people of the North Shore have been the most interested in the plan.
This situation on the North Shore is not a surprise. The people of Milford have been very active on the issue of building heights for the last four years and many have built up sound knowledge of the processes. It is certainly interesting to see how other areas have also mobilised and there has been good turnout at the various North Shore meetings.
Where will the process now move? After the material has been collated and analysed it will be put into a comprehensive report for Mayor Brown and councillors to consider. This will be a massive job; sifting through the various views and coming up with a credible draft Unitary Plan.
This whole process is not plain sailing. There is a bill before Parliament right now, the Resource Management Act Reform Bill that will impact on the way in which the Unitary Plan is processed. That bill is with the Local Government and Environment select committee and will be reported back to Parliament on 11 June. It is of interest that local MPs Maggie Barry and Andrew Williams are members of this select committee.
It is also of interest that the RMA Reform bill contains a provision that a special report on the effects of the Unitary Plan must be prepared by Auckland Council 60 working days prior to notification and sent to the Ministry for the Environment. In order to adhere to this, the Council would be required to send this report to Wellington by mid-June. Auckland Council, realising that this time frame is virtually impossible to achieve, has asked that the time of 60 working days be reduced down to 20 working days.
So Auckland Council is working under intolerably tight time constraints and there is little wriggle room. It is my view that this whole process must not be rushed just to get the plan notified by a date in mid-September. I am pleased to see more and more indicators suggest that the message is getting through that time needs to be taken to get the plan provisions sorted to reflect community needs.
The draft RMA Reform bill indicates that the plan will not have legal effect until the appeals have been dispensed with - within a maximum three years from notification. The submissions and appeals process has been reduced to a one-stage Hearings Panel system, with a panel of three people being appointed for this. Auckland Council will be the only body that can take an appeal to the Environment Court.
At the point of notification, the Council puts out the draft plan to the community, along with the report from the Ministry for the Environment. The public will then have time to look at the changes that have been made to the
plan and also read the official report from the Environment Ministry.
Individuals and groups will have chance to submit feedback to the Hearing Panel process, within a 60 working day period.
The process will not end at that point. Upon receipt of the first wave of submissions, Auckland Council will then try and rationalise what is being said and a further round of submissions will occur, cross referencing all the initial input.
It is important that the North Shore community engages in this lengthy process. It will be no good wishing you had engaged once the process is done and dusted!