Mayor cites issues with consent notification decision-making

Gary Kircher.
Gary Kircher
How it is decided whether to publicly notify a consent application in the Waitaki district will require further discussion, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher says.

The Waitaki District Council confirmed a "business as usual" approach to its Resource Management Act 1991 responsibilities to council officers last week.

However, Mr Kircher said he believed  some past decisions had not been made with "100%" of the information.

Some council staff had not lived in the area for long and ‘‘may not have an appreciation of an effect of a particular activity in a particular area’’, he said.

While staff were making decisions using "the best of their judgement", there was "other information, a context to an area or an activity",  they might not be familiar with. Those gaps could be filled by "those of us who have been around a bit longer and it could affect the decision".

He would not speak about specific decisions in a later interview with the Otago Daily Times.

The ODT has reported on several cases in which the community has called for public notification. Members of the community rallied when the former North Otago RSA building was expected to become an around-the-clock call centre. That project stalled because of an unrelated matter.

There were calls for the public notification of the installation of sand sausages on Oamaru’s foreshore in front of the Oamaru Creek little blue penguin colony. That project changed to rock armouring after a severe storm required emergency work. And Weston neighbours of a proposed Network Waitaki pole yard and service centre called for wider notification as well. That consent was appealed and went to mediation earlier this month, but the decision remains under a confidentiality agreement.

"Just because someone really cares about something doesn’t automatically mean that they should be the ones notified," Mr Kircher said.

"There’s a stronger test about that — does this affect them, not just their feelings? But where there is strong public sentiment about a particular thing, or a particular area — that is something that should be considered."

On September 13, the councillors formally welcomed the council’s new planning manager, Hamish Barrell, who will ultimately decide  whether  consent applications will be notified.

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