Local Boards will not be consulted on final form of Auckland’s Unitary Plan
The Unitary Plan is approaching its denouement.
The decision of the Hearings Panel has been provided to Auckland Council and Council officers have been analysing the report all weekend. It is anticipated that the report will be publicly available this Wednesday.
It is a shame that the documents were not put into the public domain immediately it was provided. This would have allowed the public to have more time to consider the matter and look at the source documents themselves. Having them filtered through officer report can result in some of the nuances being missed and some of the effects of changes being understated. There are apparently a thousand pages of recommendations and 60 associated reports so as much time as possible should be allowed. Apparently most of the reports were received on May 18, 2016. The delay in releasing the information is more inexplicable given that most of the information was available two months ago. And in saying this I find myself in the unusual situation of agreeing with Dick Quax.
Council is now required to make a final determination by August 19, 2016 unless an extension is granted and given previous government responses this is unlikely.
And the Government appears to be relaxed with the results so far and backing away from a threat to replace Auckland Council with commissioners. It makes you think they must have had a quick peek at the results.
From the Herald two days ago:
Bill English is optimistic the Auckland Council will make good decisions when final recommendations for the city’s new rulebook, or Unitary Plan, are given to councillors next week.
The Finance Minister said the council has a pretty good understanding of the importance of its decisions for Auckland and the wider economy.
“It also understands the need to enable more supply and I am optimistic it will make good decisions.”
The comments are a softening of English’s previous warnings that the Government could step in if the council does not accept a Unitary Plan that allows supply to meet demand.
The panel yesterday handed over its recommendations to council chief executive Stephen Town. They will be released to councillors and made public next week. Councillors will meet next month to make final decisions on the plan.
There has been some concern at the ongoing role of local boards. We have been told very clearly that Council will not consider any further input from us. Councillors were advised in these terms:
As a decision maker I can take into account the local board views and preferences that were attached to the Council’s submission, and as expressed by Local Boards at the [Independent Hearings Panel] hearings, but I cannot take into account any other or subsequent views.”
With the greatest of respect this cannot be correct. The legislation states that when the Council reviews the IHP recommendations it “is not required to consult any person or consider submissions or other evidence from any person; and … the Council must not consider any submission or other evidence unless it was made available to the Hearings Panel before the Panel made the recommendation that is the subject of the Council’s decision.”
Basically the section says the Council is not required to consider submissions from local boards or anyone else for that matter. But this is not the same as a blanket prohibition. Of course there is a floodgates argument and if Council allows a further round of consultation then it will not be able to meet its legislative imposed deadlines but if there is one group who should have some rights to present further it should be local boards. In the interests of the concept of co-governance and given our mandate to represent local interests if there are any organisations that should be allowed a further say it is local boards.
There has also been some controversy about whether the matter should be considered by Council itself or the Auckland Development Committee. Briefings were meant to be made to the Auckland Development Committee which has had control of the issue so far and this briefing paper (page 61) suggests that the ADC was going to be briefed on the issue.
The Committee has as its members all members of Council and the Mayor as well as two representatives from the Independent Maori Statutory Board. Council itself has no IMSB members. If the transfer is made there will be no independent Maori input into the form of the final plan.
I have said before that the process has been designed by a masochist and the Government is the body that should be held to account. Expecting Councillors to calmly and coldly review a complex plan during the intense heat of an election campaign is asking for trouble.