The Devonport Peninsula Precincts Society (DPPS) is concerned that changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA) threaten the notification process through which the public can have a say on developments that affect them. Currently, councils notify a consent where they decide there may be affected parties.
The society sought assurance from all the North Shore electorate political candidates that the public will continue to be able to have a say.
The society posed the following questions to the candidates and their answers appear below.
- Is meaningful and accessible public participation in the Resource Management process essential to quality outcomes?
- Does this particular application have lessons for Auckland more generally as it implements its new Unitary Plan?
- What advice would you give to large developers in light of the course the Ryman application has taken?
- The proposed development abuts a defined Significant Ecological Area. Are there other safeguards, measures, or actions you think should have been, or might yet be taken?
- Anything else?
Question #1 from DPPS:
Is meaningful and accessible public participation in the Resource Management process essential to quality outcomes?
Hon Maggie Barry (National): The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill was passed earlier this year to better support economic growth, increase housing supply and affordability, provide better infrastructure and less bureaucracy while ensuring the environment is well managed and protected. The reality is that Auckland is going to keep growing. The Devonport peninsula, like many other inner city areas, is highly desirable and the Auckland unitary plan allows for intensification to happen.
Green Party: Meaningful and accessible public participation is a cornerstone of the RMA. People have a right to be involved in decisions on consent applications which affect their neighbourhood and places they care about. The National Government’s changes to the notification provisions in the RMA make it less likely that councils will notify applications for public submissions. The Green Party has consistently opposed these changes and those which constrain appeal rights to the courts, particularly the specialist Environment Court which the National Government has sought to side-line. See https://www.greens.org.nz/news/press-release/national-government-abusing-process-push-through-changes-rma-0
Romy Udanga (Labour): I find public participation important in public governance, the Resource Management process being an example. In this particular case where we have a landmark application under the Unitary Plan, we should not do without it. Public participation can be a strong stabilising force in a changing environment.
Question #2 from DPPS:
Does this particular application have lessons for Auckland more generally as it implements its new Unitary Plan?
Hon Maggie Barry (National) In this case, the original design apparently did meet the parameters of the unitary plan for the specified area but as there was considerable local unhappiness about the design and concern about the heritage ‘character’, more consultation and openness from the developer would’ve made a positive difference.
Green Party: We don’t know enough about the detail of the case to provide specific comment on the issues. Court decisions should help guide future implementation of the Plan and identify any provisions where clarification is needed.
Romy Udanga (Labour): As we in Auckland implement the Unitary Plan, we will find that project boundaries submitted under the plan will be pushed and pulled by competing participants in an effort to define implementing parameters their way. Early decisions made under the Unitary Plan will be precedent-setting. So it will be for the best interest of all participants–the government, non-government, public and private sectors–to be involved with projects very early on. This will ensure efficiency and effectiveness in project development processes on the part of project proponents, and transparency and accountability on the side of government. I believe that involving the public and NGOs will lead to a more responsible approach in defining the intent of the Unitary Plan.
Question #3 from DPPS:
What advice would you give to large developers in light of the course the Ryman application has taken?
Hon Maggie Barry (National): After meeting with both Ryman and unhappy residents and listening to their perspectives I formed the view that there was willingness of both sides to compromise to achieve the right outcome and I understand that Ryman and interested parties have now resolved the outstanding issues through discussion and negotiation.
As the Minister for Seniors I am very aware that many older people who have enjoyed living in Devonport and the peninsula would like more options to be able to stay in the community they love as they age. There has been a shortage of appropriate residential facilities and the Ryman development gives people more options to choose from if they want to stay in the area. For those who sell their houses and shift into the Ryman development, it will free up more houses so that others can come and live in this fine community.
Green Party: Genuine community consultation, preferably before large developments are designed and certainly before consents are lodged means contentious issues can be identified early. If the design and development process is flexible enough to respond to community concerns this can improve the project and reduce the likelihood of litigation.
Romy Udanga (Labour): Because it is early days in the implementation of the Unitary Plan, developers should involve the public and NGOs very early on in project development. This creates trust and facilitates productive interaction, especially in the interpretation of rules. Clear and certain regulations are valued by businesses. Where there are grey areas as in the interpretation of some aspects of the Unitary Plan, it is to their best interest to clarify them.
Question #4 from DPPS:
The proposed development abuts a defined Significant Ecological Area. Are there other safeguards, measures, or actions you think should have been, or might yet be taken?
Green Party:The failure to progress a National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity to guide councils is a major gap in RMA policy which the Green Party would fill. Preserving the natural character of the coast and waterways and protecting significant ecological areas helps ensure that nature can thrive and protects amenity values. The Green Party would increase the Environmental Legal Assistance Fund to level the playing field between well- funded development interests and community organisations seeking to protect the public and community interest in amenity values, and natural and built heritage
Question #5 from DPPS:
Hon Maggie Barry (National): I’ve noted that the Devonport Peninsula Precincts Society is very proactive with their “How’s the traffic” message boards, and I would be interested to meet again and hear their views on the upcoming Lake Road consultation process and to understand their preferred traffic management plan of the three options.
Read more about Devonport Peninsula Precincts Society concerns in this Stuff news item by reporter, Felicity Reid
NZ First did not respond to questions.