The Amendment Bill and where we are at with the Hearings
From the Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel:
Progress and preparing for the next stage
The Panel has made good progress with the hearings to date. The hearing programme for 2015 is now almost completed and over 60,000 of the 93,000 submission points have been heard.
The topics to be heard next year deal with over 20,000 points from around 5000 submitters relating to specific properties or sites, for example where the Rural Urban Boundary is applied, requests to change zoning and to amend or create precincts.
Timing is tight to hear these matters and complete the panel’s recommendations for it to report to Auckland Council by the statutory deadline of 22 July, so the Panel has been looking at the best approach to these hearings to ensure they can be completed within the timeframe, while making sure submitters have a fair opportunity to have their say.
The 19 November amendment act gives the Panel and submitters more options. Smaller hearing panels, running concurrently on the same topic in a variety of locations, will provide more opportunity for lay submitters to have their say in a less intimidating environment and offer some choice about where they have their say.
The challenge with split panels, however, is ensuring consistency so the panel has agreed the following approach.
By the end of 2015, the panel will have agreed its likely directions on the matters heard and will have in place a framework for a consistent approach to individual sites. The panel members hearing the site specific topics will take this framework as their starting point to ensure a consistent approach by all panels across the various locations.
The full panel will hear the evidence provided by Auckland Council. Once the panels have split, all panel members will come together each Friday to review what has been heard by the split panels, deal with any matters on which panel members have disagreed and identify any changes needed to the overall approach or any implications for the topics already heard.
When the hearings have been completed the full panel will spend some weeks reviewing its recommendations across all the hearing topics to ensure its report to council presents a coherent and consistent plan that achieves the long term planning outcomes for Auckland.
And for the Amendment Bill that recently passed in Parliament concerning the Unitary Plan
On 19 November Parliament passed a bill to amend the Local Government (Auckland Transitional Provisions) Amendment Act. The changes enable a quorum of two rather than three panel members in a hearing, allow for the appointment of up to three additional panel members, confirm that the Panel can split and hold several hearings at the same time and appoint chairs for these hearings.
These changes will ensure that in 2016 the Panel is able to deal with the large number of submissions on specific properties, while still completing the hearings and presenting its recommendations to Auckland Council on 22 July.