Monday, May 25, 2009

Government SuperCity Model Undermines NZ Law

For 20 years Auckland has developed and re-shaped itself following the 1989 Amalgamation. Legislative planks that have underpinned Auckland planning over that time are the Resource Management Act 1991 and the more recent Local Government Act.

Both of these Acts profoundly influence and enable the way that the public and communities are involved in Auckland planning.

It has taken Auckland's councils time and effort to properly engage with and adapt their institutional arrangements to fit these new laws. Among other things that delay, or organisational intertia has led to delays in implementing the Growth Strategy - which calls for more efficient and intensive development of parts of Auckland around mass transport corridors (like rail and bus and ferry), and less wasteful greenfield sprawl at the edges.

The LGAAA 2004, amended the Local Government Act and put more direction into what Councils needed to do, to give effect to the Growth Strategy.

And it has been happening: New Lynn and Newmarket are standout examples. And planning is underway for change in other parts of the region now: St Lukes and Milford shopping centres are examples that come to mind readily.

But Government's proposed changes risk halting that progress. Government's proposals will lead to centralised planning, and to just 20 councillors.

The public are only slightly aware of the important and significant role that District Plan changes and Designations under the RMA are to urban change. Nobody - not even Councils or Government agencies - can build something, or permit something to be built, unless the District Plan provides for it. Unless it is permitted by the District Plan.

Waitakere City's New Lynn project required a suite of District Plan changes. These will enable medium density and high density development around the railway station. These Plan Changes did not happen overnight. They are not like a resource consent permit to build a house. They are at the heart of planning. The RMA imposes a range of consultation requirements and obligations when changes are made to the District Plan. The public - even under proposed streamlining changes to the RMA - still have very significant opportunities for input to Plan Changes. Council has very significant duties to ensure the changes to the plan - and their implications - are well understood by the community.

The affected community includes local land owners. Some residential. Some business. And there are the infrastructure operators as well: public transport, roading, water, electricity....

Waitakere City Council carried out much of this consultation using Charrette processes. These are a form of consultation which is intensive, involving, creative, and which takes time. Experts were brought in to explain options for change. Meetings took place over an extended time period. Wall charts went up. People indicated their support for some things and not others. This process took a couple of years for New Lynn. And it's still going on as detail gets worked through.
Ultimately, the council proposed various District Plan changes. These are policy decisions for the council to take. Elected councillors make the final decisions. Most Plan Changes are heard by Councillors. They should be. While there is pressure to professionalise this process, and ensure that no politician is seeking to pork barrel over any aspect, there is no taking away from the reality that Plan Change processes are highly contested.

Public issues and public realm are at stake. Land development profit opportunities are evident. Development levies need to be calculated so infrastructure is paid for appropriately. Those decisions are taken under the Local Government Act, which is entwined with RMA decisions.

Plan Changes to District Plans take time.

They are the fundamental basis for Auckland planning. As are designations. These are needed for new motorways for example. Or other new public works like schools.

There has been much debate in the media about resource consent planning processes, and who will do those under the SuperCity. But resource consents are heard in terms of the District Plan. I am talking here about the District Plan itself. How it changes over time. How it needs to change to enable Auckland to develop in a more energy efficient and land efficient way. A more compact way. A way that is the agreed alternative to sprawl.

Auckland's future development is dependent on the District Plan. These are 7 of these now. One for each territorial authority area. They are changing all the time.

I am sitting on a plan change hearing now. There is a private plan change being heard for farm land at Takanini - Papakura. This Plan Change is problematic because it involves a shift in the MUL. However there are many other Plan Changes being considered across Auckland Region.

ARC's Transport and Urban Development Ctte was advised of a major Plan Change being prepared for St Lukes shopping area. This is another private Plan Change. Auckland City Council is the consent authority, as it affects its District Plan. Consultation obligations must be met and public participation is substantial.

Political decisions are required to ensure that the level of public consultation and involvement is appropriate. And that the Plan Change itself is good and fair to all parties affected. This work goes largely un-noticed by the public, yet it is fundamental to Auckland's direction, and to the implementation of the principles that underpin the Local Government and Resource Management Acts.

Abolishing the councils that do this work, and that manage the contest between public realm development and private benefit, puts much of what has begun to work well across Auckland at risk. Cutting councillors from their present level to just 20 will seriously undermine their ability to carry out the essentially political work that this process demands.

It will mean greater delegation to officers of this work. It will mean that councillors are removed from the reality and the impact of their decisions. This will not improve representation. Whether government likes it or not, elected council representatives are the people whose job it is to manage the awkward decisions that no-one else likes to make.

These need to be as public as possible. Because planning and Plan Changes are not a private matter. Less planning will not mean better outcomes.

Government changes will damage the implementation of New Zealand law. If we had a constitution in NZ, Government could not change these governance arrangements in so draconian a way. Government should take a long hard look in the mirror, and a deep breath before going further with these destructive plans.

1 comment:

jarbury said...

The RMA changes are pretty terrible for limiting discussion on plan changes and the like. I brought that up in my submission.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Government SuperCity Model Undermines NZ Law

For 20 years Auckland has developed and re-shaped itself following the 1989 Amalgamation. Legislative planks that have underpinned Auckland planning over that time are the Resource Management Act 1991 and the more recent Local Government Act.

Both of these Acts profoundly influence and enable the way that the public and communities are involved in Auckland planning.

It has taken Auckland's councils time and effort to properly engage with and adapt their institutional arrangements to fit these new laws. Among other things that delay, or organisational intertia has led to delays in implementing the Growth Strategy - which calls for more efficient and intensive development of parts of Auckland around mass transport corridors (like rail and bus and ferry), and less wasteful greenfield sprawl at the edges.

The LGAAA 2004, amended the Local Government Act and put more direction into what Councils needed to do, to give effect to the Growth Strategy.

And it has been happening: New Lynn and Newmarket are standout examples. And planning is underway for change in other parts of the region now: St Lukes and Milford shopping centres are examples that come to mind readily.

But Government's proposed changes risk halting that progress. Government's proposals will lead to centralised planning, and to just 20 councillors.

The public are only slightly aware of the important and significant role that District Plan changes and Designations under the RMA are to urban change. Nobody - not even Councils or Government agencies - can build something, or permit something to be built, unless the District Plan provides for it. Unless it is permitted by the District Plan.

Waitakere City's New Lynn project required a suite of District Plan changes. These will enable medium density and high density development around the railway station. These Plan Changes did not happen overnight. They are not like a resource consent permit to build a house. They are at the heart of planning. The RMA imposes a range of consultation requirements and obligations when changes are made to the District Plan. The public - even under proposed streamlining changes to the RMA - still have very significant opportunities for input to Plan Changes. Council has very significant duties to ensure the changes to the plan - and their implications - are well understood by the community.

The affected community includes local land owners. Some residential. Some business. And there are the infrastructure operators as well: public transport, roading, water, electricity....

Waitakere City Council carried out much of this consultation using Charrette processes. These are a form of consultation which is intensive, involving, creative, and which takes time. Experts were brought in to explain options for change. Meetings took place over an extended time period. Wall charts went up. People indicated their support for some things and not others. This process took a couple of years for New Lynn. And it's still going on as detail gets worked through.
Ultimately, the council proposed various District Plan changes. These are policy decisions for the council to take. Elected councillors make the final decisions. Most Plan Changes are heard by Councillors. They should be. While there is pressure to professionalise this process, and ensure that no politician is seeking to pork barrel over any aspect, there is no taking away from the reality that Plan Change processes are highly contested.

Public issues and public realm are at stake. Land development profit opportunities are evident. Development levies need to be calculated so infrastructure is paid for appropriately. Those decisions are taken under the Local Government Act, which is entwined with RMA decisions.

Plan Changes to District Plans take time.

They are the fundamental basis for Auckland planning. As are designations. These are needed for new motorways for example. Or other new public works like schools.

There has been much debate in the media about resource consent planning processes, and who will do those under the SuperCity. But resource consents are heard in terms of the District Plan. I am talking here about the District Plan itself. How it changes over time. How it needs to change to enable Auckland to develop in a more energy efficient and land efficient way. A more compact way. A way that is the agreed alternative to sprawl.

Auckland's future development is dependent on the District Plan. These are 7 of these now. One for each territorial authority area. They are changing all the time.

I am sitting on a plan change hearing now. There is a private plan change being heard for farm land at Takanini - Papakura. This Plan Change is problematic because it involves a shift in the MUL. However there are many other Plan Changes being considered across Auckland Region.

ARC's Transport and Urban Development Ctte was advised of a major Plan Change being prepared for St Lukes shopping area. This is another private Plan Change. Auckland City Council is the consent authority, as it affects its District Plan. Consultation obligations must be met and public participation is substantial.

Political decisions are required to ensure that the level of public consultation and involvement is appropriate. And that the Plan Change itself is good and fair to all parties affected. This work goes largely un-noticed by the public, yet it is fundamental to Auckland's direction, and to the implementation of the principles that underpin the Local Government and Resource Management Acts.

Abolishing the councils that do this work, and that manage the contest between public realm development and private benefit, puts much of what has begun to work well across Auckland at risk. Cutting councillors from their present level to just 20 will seriously undermine their ability to carry out the essentially political work that this process demands.

It will mean greater delegation to officers of this work. It will mean that councillors are removed from the reality and the impact of their decisions. This will not improve representation. Whether government likes it or not, elected council representatives are the people whose job it is to manage the awkward decisions that no-one else likes to make.

These need to be as public as possible. Because planning and Plan Changes are not a private matter. Less planning will not mean better outcomes.

Government changes will damage the implementation of New Zealand law. If we had a constitution in NZ, Government could not change these governance arrangements in so draconian a way. Government should take a long hard look in the mirror, and a deep breath before going further with these destructive plans.

1 comment:

jarbury said...

The RMA changes are pretty terrible for limiting discussion on plan changes and the like. I brought that up in my submission.