Where Next With the #UnitaryPlan. Critical Point on How Councillors Can Make Decisions

Council lays out the course

 

Auckland Council is sending out information on where next with the Unitary Plan as we await for the Independent Hearings Panel to send their recommendations back to Council.

Okay this is a straight copy paste job but given the importance of the information the flyer contained this needs to be shared around so please do.

And please note in the Councillor’s Decision Making sub topic as it contains a very critical point on how Councillors can come to their decisions.

 

From Auckland Council:

Second Edition 2016

Welcome to the second edition of Auckland Unitary Plan News, a regular update explaining the process for making final decisions on the Auckland Unitary Plan in August 2016.

 

In this edition we take a closer look at councillors’ decision making and what the Independent Hearings Panel will provide to the council when it makes its recommendations. And independent hearings on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan concluded last month after almost two years of mediations, hearings, and review of submissions and evidence.

AUCKLAND UNITARY PLAN REACHES MAJOR MILESTONE

Last month the hearings on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan came to an end. Hearings before the Independent Hearings Panel, a statutory body appointed by central government and independent of Auckland Council, concluded on 13 May 2016.

The hearings process has been a huge undertaking. The Panel reviewed over 13,000 submissions, received over 10,000 pieces of evidence, and held 227 pre-hearing mediation sessions and 249 days of hearings with over 4000 appearances by submitters.

Since hearings concluded the Panel has been working hard to complete its recommendations on changes it thinks should be made to the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan. The Panel’s recommendations will be based on all of the submissions, hearings and evidence put before the Panel during the hearings process.

WHO SEES WHAT, WHEN?

Now that the independent hearings process is complete and the Panel is preparing its final reports, Auckland Council’s role under the law is a bit like a jury waiting to hear closing arguments.

So, who sees what and when?

The council receives the Independent Hearings Panel recommendations on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan on 22 July 2016. Rather than a summarised list of recommendations, the Panel will provide:

– An overview report summarising any big recommended policy shifts and the recommended changes across the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan

– Reports, by topic, providing the recommendations and the reasons for them

– An amended Auckland Unitary Plan and maps – effectively this recommended   plan will be the version of the Auckland Unitary Plan that the council will make its decisions on

On 27 July, councillors will be briefed on the Panel’s recommendations and the public will be able to view all of the information provided by the Panel on the council website.

Decisions on the Auckland Unitary Plan will be fully transparent with council’s decisions being made in public meetings from 12-18 August. These meetings will be available for viewing on the council’s live streaming service.

The council’s decisions will be publicly notified on 19 August 2016 on its website.

COUNCILLOR’S DECISION MAKING

In our last edition we provided an overview of the key legal steps for deciding the Auckland Unitary Plan. This time we take a closer look at the process councillors must follow to make their decisions.

In fairness to public submitters, and to preserve the integrity of the independent hearings, the law requires that councillors can only take into account the information that has been presented to the Independent Hearings Panel through written public submissions and evidence given at its hearings, together with the Panel’s final reports and recommendations.

Councillors must not have regard to any further information or views not put before the Panel during the extensive two year independent hearings process.

The Panel’s final reports and recommendations will set out how they have considered all the submissions and evidence, what amendments to the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan they are recommending, and the reasons for any changes.

The legislation gives the council a very limited timeframe to consider the Panel’s recommendations and make final decisions (20 workings days). Decisions will be made between 12 and 18 August 2016.

In making their final decisions, councillors will consider the Panel’s recommended version of the Auckland Unitary Plan and reports and then must either accept or reject each recommendation to decide the Auckland Unitary Plan.

They cannot reject a Panel recommendation without explaining why and providing an alternative solution from within the scope of public submissions made on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan together with a cost benefit analysis.

When the council publicly notifies its decisions on 19th August it will explain:

– each recommendation of the Hearings Panel that it accept

– each recommendation of the Hearings Panel that it rejects and the reasons for doing so

– the alternative solution for each rejected recommendation and supporting analysis.

ONLINE VIDEOS HELP TO EXPLAIN KEY TOPICS

On-demand video and presentations on key topics of the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan are available on the council website here.

This provides information from the Auckland Unitary Plan information meetings which are currently being held on a fortnightly basis with overviews of the council’s preliminary position at the independent hearings, what submitters had to say and any guidance issued by the Independent Hearings Panel.

GROWING AUCKLAND SERIES

Over the coming weeks OurAuckland is running a series called Growing Auckland, to explore the key topics of the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan and explain how it will be decided. See OurAuckland for more information.

KEEP THESE DATES IN MIND

22 July – Independent Hearings Panel provides Auckland Council with its recommended changes to the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan

27 July – All of the Panel’s recommendations will be available on the council website

12-18 August – Auckland Council makes its decisions on the Auckland Unitary Plan

19 August – Council publicly notifies its Auckland Unitary Plan decisions

16 September – The period for appeals to decisions closes

 

I’ll emphasis the key Councillor’s Decision Making point again:

In fairness to public submitters, and to preserve the integrity of the independent hearings, the law requires that councillors can only take into account the information that has been presented to the Independent Hearings Panel through written public submissions and evidence given at its hearings, together with the Panel’s final reports and recommendations.

Councillors must not have regard to any further information or views not put before the Panel during the extensive two year independent hearings process.

……….

 

From what I am reading the Councillors can only factor in those 9,400 who submitted, those who did further submissions against for for those earlier primary decisions (and whether they fronted up to the Panel or not), and the final recommendations /reports from the Panel itself. They can not factor any outside information or view points unless they want to run foul of legislation and end up most likely in the High Court for breaching the law when making their decisions (the High Court was reserved for points of law).

This is a very big point and one to watch very carefully as some of the Councillors will try to get around it which means they are both subverting their Office as a Councillor and the law itself that governs the Unitary Plan (I believe that will be the Local Government Act and the Resource Management Act).

 

Manukau Metro comparison Source:
Manukau Metro comparison
Source:

 

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