Out of Scope material remains with the Panel
While Councillor Wood has no idea about the Unitary Plan processes
Today the Unitary Plan Hearings Panel will begin hearing on the submitter requests on rezoning sites or large areas after the Council’s economic evidence was given (and subsequently holed) last week (see: #UnitaryPlan Rezoning Hearings Not Off to a Great Start for Council).
As we know after the vote by 13 Councillors to withdraw the Out of Scope material from Council’s evidence to the Panel (which was then rejected by the Panel anyhow) it would be untenable for Council’s Planners and witnesses to be present at the Hearings unless summoned by the Panel or another submitter.
Todd Niall from Radio New Zealand spells out what is likely to happen:
Auckland Council to stay silent at crucial hearing
Auckland Council has withdrawn staff from crucial hearings on the city’s future, saying its hands are tied by political revolt.
Few of the council’s planning staff and expert witnesses are to appear at the Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel, which is set to begin considering future zonings today.
The withdrawal follows an unprecedented defeat for council leadership 10 days ago, when councillors overthrew some higher-density housing proposals already before the panel – by a vote of 13 to 8.In legal advice prior to the vote, councillors were told they should not withdraw any evidence and that doing so would have significant legal consequences.
The unitary plan is intended to shape the city’s development over the next 30 years, and the final two months of hearings will look at housing, business and rural zonings.
The independent panel is like a court, hearing evidence from the council and thousands of submitters before proposing a final version of the plan, which the council must accept or reject by September.
Auckland Council chief executive Stephen Town wrote to councillors and the chairs of the local boards, explaining the withdrawal.
Mr Town said the only exception would be if the panel itself called council staff, or if other submitters sought to cross-examine them.
While council staff would be unable to argue in person over the housing zonings that a majority of councillors opposed, the written arguments remained before the panel and could be argued by others.
On Thursday, Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel chair Judge David Kirkpatrick told a packed hearing room that it would not be removing any evidence already before it, nor would the panel refuse to call any witnesses.
The panel must complete the plan by July and hand it back to the council, which has until September to accept it or reject parts of it.
Rejection would spark possible appeals to the Environment Court.
The requirement for a unitary plan, and the hearing process, were set up by the government in special legislation.
Minister for the Environment Nick Smith said he was expecting it to be done on time.
The Todd Niall audio can be heard below:
What is embarrassing though is Councillor George Wood unable to explain the Unitary Plan processes as well as the consequence of his vote to Guyon Espiner:
The sad thing is that the 13 Councillors (who I will name below) would be at an equal lost to the Unitary Plan processes (set by Government legislation) despite numerous attempts at plain English explanations in both the Main Stream Media and Social Media outlets available. Because in the end it was never about process (the Panel over ruled the vote and has kept the Out of Scope material in play any way) it was just about plain NIMBYism and nothing else.
So here are the 13 Councillors that effectively withdrew the City out of the most important topic of the Unitary Plan hearings and are at a loss on how the Unitary Plan actually works:
Sir John Walker
If these 13 are at a loss now then how will they explain and cope when the Recommendations come back in August for the Governing Body acceptance or rejection (which kicks off appeals: How Will Council Approach the Unitary Plan Hearings Panel Recommendations).
The chances of direct Government intervention continue to rumble whether the Government chooses to bypass the Governing Body and enshrine the Unitary Plan directly or if all else fails goes for Commissioners as a consequence of that Wednesday vote.