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Published: 2016-03-08 00:00:00

Protection for local democracy and the integrity of a Hauraki Gulf planning process are features of two Waikato Regional Council submissions to central Government.

The documents were endorsed by the strategy and policy committee today.

“We see a lot of good ideas in what’s being proposed by Government but have reservations about their impact locally,” said committee chairman Bob Simcock.

“We’ll continue to keep a close eye on the issues on the Waikato’s behalf.”

The submission on the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 supported the Government’s intent to improve “efficient and equitable” management of natural and physical resources by streamlining and centralising planning processes.

But the submission warned this shouldn’t be at the expense of local democratic processes. It said a number of amendments would reduce the ability of the public to participate in decision-making on resource consents.

“Of concern is the proposed powers given to the Minister for the Environment and/or Minister of Conservation to override the plan making mandate of local government. This seems at odds with the intent of the streamlining provisions, which are related to process rather than content.”

The submission was also concerned at provisions requiring resource consent processing authorities to specify reasons why applications were being opened for public submission, and then to limit submissions to those matters. “This seems contrary to the purpose of [public] notification, which is to make sure all the potential effects are identified and addressed.”

The submission also felt a new 10-day fast tracking of minor consent applications was an unnecessarily “blunt instrument” which could prevent proper assessment of all relevant matters.

Another question raised was whether proposed iwi participation arrangements covering plan-making would duplicate existing arrangements between councils and iwi in the Waikato, and unnecessarily add to their work. 

A second submission on the New Marine Protected Areas Act consultation document said a Government proposal for a recreational fishing park in the Hauraki Gulf should be delayed until the multi-agency Sea Change Tai Timu Tai Pari collaborative process had produced a new marine spatial for the Gulf. “There is a risk that imposing a recreational fishing park at this stage will be inconsistent with the marine spatial plan,” it warned.