Govt reforms risk taking power away from Auckland's communities

Statement from Auckland Council Deputy Mayor, Penny Hulse, in response to proposed RMA reforms

The Government’s proposed reforms to the Resource Management Act risk shifting considerable power out of the hands of Auckland’s communities.

The reforms, outlined today, would see decisions being made over 600km away, cutting communities out of shaping development in their areas. The proposals include the Government Minister being able to direct planning changes and directly amending operative plans; they also introduce the potential for an alternative crown body undertaking consent-process functions in areas that are growing quickly.

Auckland is a complex place. One size does not fit all, and it is essential that we harness the local knowledge and insights that are in our local communities. We need to keep what makes our local areas special.

The proposals include some very welcome changes, such as speeding up planning decisions and providing developers and landowners with greater clarity. We also agree with less reliance on Environment Court appeals. In fact, our engagement process in developing the Auckland Unitary Plan is focused on enabling communities to have their say upfront, rather than leaving it to costly court appeals. We would like the Government to therefore go further and ensure that the Auckland Unitary Plan – which will by then have received significant public input – is able to take effect when it’s notified later this year, rather than being delayed another three years until it becomes operative.

These are things we are already pressing ahead with in our move to a simpler, Auckland-wide planning system. However, simpler shouldn’t mean doing things in a simplistic way. For example, developers have made it clear that there must also be some flexibility within the system; flexibility can – in larger-scale developments – lead to better and more attractive outcomes. Again, that flexibility cannot be managed from Wellington. Aucklanders want development to be well-designed and of good quality – and they want to have their say on it.

So, while we welcome some of what the Minister proposes, it is important that Aucklanders are still able to shape their own communities.

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