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Changes to the Resource Management Act introduced by the previous National government came into force on October 18.
The new section 95A relates to public notification of consent applications and provides that certain applications such as rural residential development are now precluded from being publicly notified. Council planning and development general manager Tony Avery said the council’s position remained that "it does not agree with the non-notification provisions as it applies to sub-divisions, because it does restrict the public’s ability to contribute."
"Nor does the Council agree with the removal of appeal rights against such non-notified sub-division decisions that are made."
"However, it is now the law," he said.
Upper Clutha Environmental Society spokesman Julian Haworth said the society was "extremely disappointed" with council’s reaction to the changes to the Resource Management Act (the Act) in regard to public notification.
"Council appears to have supinely accepted that the public should be able to be shut out from making submissions on rural subdivision applications on the basis that it can do nothing about this."
Mr Haworth said the society wanted the council to make all rural subdivisions non-complying in areas classified as ‘‘outstanding natural landscapes (ONL)" and "outstanding natural feature (ONF)" landscapes. That was a position supported by both the Court and Council in the past, and would mean that subdivisions within ONL and ONF were able to be publicly notified.
Mr Haworth said the council should also seek a declaration from the court as to whether its practice note explaining how to interpret the new Act amendment was correct and whether non-notification of subdivision applications within rural landscapes was consistent with the purpose of the Act. Mr Avery said the existing plan provisions had very strong protective policies for the ONL and ONF landscapes "which this council will be enforcing".
"The council is part way through its Proposed District Plan process ... all matters relating to the controls to protect ONL and ONF landscapes will be fully canvassed through that process, which is the appropriate mechanism."
The council would not be seeking a declaration from the court as it did not believe that would be the most appropriate use of ratepayer contributions when parliament had passed a law council had to implement.
Environment minister David Parker has been reported as saying the new Labour-led coalition government will attempt to reverse the National-led law change.
The minister was unavailable for an interview yesterday.