Council Wanting To Improve Consenting Processes

Adequate in Belief but Room for Improvement (as always)

From Auckland Council:

Auckland Council agrees consents appropriate but wants improvements to process

 Auckland Development Committee today received a report which confirmed the council’s Paturoa Rd consents were appropriate, the correct rules and been followed and that the independent commissioners were right not to publicly notify the applications.

The Auckland Council will now build on existing measures to improve resource consent practices after the review of the process which rightfully allowed a property owner to fell a kauri tree so he could build on his Titirangi section.

The report said there were lessons to be learned about how local boards are involved in such decisions, consultation with iwi and the application of the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act. Similar improvements to internal processes are expected.

Chief Operation Officer Dean Kimpton told the committee there was room for improvement.

“Let’s be honest – the process for these particular consents was ‘clunky’, they could be improved upon. They took longer than necessary – in some cases issues were slow to be sorted, and communications at times were inconsistent,” he said.  “We could and should have done better. We have previously advised council of our programme to streamline and improve development approvals, this application reinforces that need and our commitment to making it happen.”

Mr Kimpton also told the committee that council buying the land was not an option and that an independent process was being carried out with the local community and the land’s owners to try and find a solution for the site.

The report made several recommendations that were approved by the committee including:

  • Review process on how consent applications are provided to local boards and iwi and how feedback on applications is received. Similarly how to keep the applicant across key issues and progress.
  • Using clearer language that better describes the nature of applications as well as providing aerial photography and relevant information such as ecologist and arborist reports
  • Regular training and refreshers for resource consents staff on the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area, its Act and how activities in that particular area are managed
  • Training for local board members on the resource consent process and the associated legal issues
  • Ensure the right triggers are identified in matters local boards have had a specific interest in.

The report noted staff considering the application thought the removal of the tree was regrettable but the best option because putting the house in any other place on the site would involve cutting down even more mature trees.

Committee chair and Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse said the report upheld the council’s actions in regards to the kauri tree and that while changes would be made to improve internal processes that particular consent could not be revoked by council.

On Ms Hulse’s recommendation, council will write to the Ministers for the Environment and Conservation outlining the complexities associated with balancing the protection of trees with the rights of property owners and suggesting staff from the ministries and council meet to discuss these issues further.

The committee also decided on a variety of measures to increase the effectiveness of its kauri dieback disease management programme.

The review conducted did not raise any specific recommendations for submissions to central government on its review of the Resource Management Act 1991.