Short-term resource consents proposal draws criticism

A national proposal to shorten the duration of resource consents is "short-sighted", an Otago regional councillor says.

It was one of many topics that councillors delved into while discussing the Three Waters reform, resource management system reform and review into the future of local government, during a workshop in Dunedin yesterday.

In an unusual move, the six-hour workshop, which was independently led by Chris Mene, was held in public.

Chairman Andrew Noone said the decision to steer away from public-excluded was made as councillors wanted to be more transparent.

The council intended to continue holding public workshops in the future, he said.

While discussing the Three Waters reforms, councillors seemed to agree that change was needed, but flagged some concerns.

The intention of the water reforms is to upgrade New Zealand’s under-pressure drinking water treatment plants to meet health standards and create equitable access.

Cr Bryan Scott said he believed there should not be an "opt out" option for Three Waters, to ensure its effectiveness.

Other councillors agreed and expressed unease about the chance that other authorities, particularly Christchurch, might not opt in, which could impact the reforms’ success.

Council strategy, policy and science general manager Gwyneth Elsum said that the cost of water connection under Three Waters in Otago and Southland would go up about $100 per household per year if Christchurch did not opt in, assuming everyone else was in.

Council senior strategy analyst Sylvia Leduc moved discussions to the resource management system reforms, which would replace the Resource Management Act with three separate acts — the Natural and Built Environments Act, Strategic Planning Act, and Managed Retreat and Climate Change Adaptation Act.

She said potential changes due to the reforms included having combined regional plans and spatial plans instead of district plans.

There was also a proposal to review the length of consents and strengthen compliance and enforcement.

Cr Kevin Malcolm called the short-term consent process "short-sighted", arguing that it would not offer stability to, for example, businesses owners who might rely on consents to operate where they did.

Cr Marian Hobbs argued climate change meant "we do not live in certain times".

The national review into the future of local government stirred discussion about whether everyone at the decision-making table should continue to be elected members, or whether others, including "experts" and iwi should join them.

The review aims to identify how New Zealand’s local democracy needs to evolve over the next 30 years to improve outcomes in terms of the community, the environment and actively embodying the Treaty partnership.

Cr Scott, while acknowledging that iwi should have a space at the table, said that elected members were important as long as the council was significantly funded by ratepayers.

An emotional Cr Kevin Malcolm stressed the importance of improving iwi partnership.

"My biggest worry is Edward [Ngai Tahu kaumatua Edward Ellison] ... I want to see in 30 years’ time that we’ve finally embraced our obligations to Treaty, so he can actually retire, go crutch a few sheep, and know we’ve got it right."

Mr Ellison said the journey was not finished in terms of representation and asked the question "how can people in the community select the spokesperson for mana whenua?"

No decisions are made during council workshops.


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