Omission forces DCC to extend consultation period

Photo: ODT Files
Photo: ODT Files
An administrative bungle means the Dunedin City Council will be forced to send its annual plan out for consultation for a second time this year.

The bungle, which only came to the council’s attention after a member of the public alerted staff to it, occurs as the councillors get ready to deliberate on hundreds of submissions to this year’s draft annual plan.

A special meeting will be held this morning to clear up the bungle, but if the council approves a staff recommendation, people can have a second go at submitting on the annual plan in the next week, if they desire.

It relates to the fact that although the council met and resolved to prepare an annual plan on February 24, it omitted to formally adopt a consultation document in accordance with section 95A of the Local Government Act.

After that meeting, comprehensive information was uploaded to the council’s website for the purpose of consultation.

"This amounts to a technical oversight, which ought now to be addressed," council agenda papers said.

"To rectify this technical oversight, staff recommend that council formally adopts a consultation document and provide for a further submission period of one week.

"The consultation document prepared by staff, a copy of which is attached to this report, comprises the same information as appears on council’s website, but in a different format and with several explanatory additions."

Council agenda papers showed some of the confusion could be blamed on central government.

In February, the government enacted the Water Services Acts Repeal Act 2024.

This Act repealed the previous government’s "Affordable Water Reforms" and introduced new transitional provisions, one of which gave council the option of preparing an "Enhanced Annual Plan" for the 2024-25 year, followed by a nine-year long-term plan for the period 2025-34 (as opposed to the usual 10-year long-term plan).

The council subsequently voted to progress with this approach.

A staff report suggested the matter could be easily resolved.

"Given that this is essentially a ‘form over substance’ issue, there is little risk in proceeding with this week’s hearings, as scheduled.

"Existing submitters have had access to the same information that will be included in the consultation document, which ensures that there is no unfairness to any submitters/parties.

"Existing submitters can attend any second hearing and could speak if they choose to make additional submissions."

A total of 736 submissions have been made by the community on the draft annual plan — significantly more than the number of submissions received in previous years.

Staff recommended the council draft consultation document be adopted by council, and a copy would be put up on council’s website.

Copies would also be distributed to council’s libraries and service centres.

People will have an extra week to submit separately on this and hearings will be convened at a later date.

Staff anticipated that additional submitters could be heard within the timeframes allocated for the Aurora hearings.