The Kapiti Coast District Council has appointed a senior planner from outside the district to assess its Proposed District Plan (PDP).
Chief Executive Pat Dougherty says the move has been prompted by public concerns that came to a head at last week’s Council meeting.
He says: “Some of the issues raised during public speaking have also been expressed in written submissions and at pre-hearing meetings. We are taking them very seriously and have acted swiftly to put the brakes on and commission a review of the PDP.”
Council has engaged Leigh Auton, one of New Zealand’s most respected and experienced planners to undertake the review. Mr Auton is a former president of the New Zealand Planning Institute, former CEO of Manukau City Council and Acting CEO of Tauranga City.
Mr Dougherty says Mr Auton will start immediately and have the job completed by early next year.
“Leigh Auton’s brief will be to determine whether the PDP should continue to be progressed through the hearings process, be significantly changed or be withdrawn in order to address submitter concerns ” he says.
New manager gives his view
Stephen McArthur, the new Manager for Strategy and Partnerships, told last week’s Council meeting that staff believed the Resource Management Act (RMA) process is flexible enough to deal with any issues raised and that withdrawing the PDP and restarting the process would be disruptive and costly. Mr McArthur says he believes the review will provide some independent rigour to address public concerns and inform Council’s next move.
“We have listened and responded to what is a significant level of concern in the community for a document that will have such a profound influence on the District’s future. We need to get this right and, in consultation with the community, we will,” he says.
Pre-hearing meetings to be more inclusive
Council has also signalled a desire to make pre-hearing meetings more inclusive and effective so any issues can be discussed and resolved before the formal hearing process begins. Mr McArthur says work is underway to determine how that can best be done.
To allow for the completion of the independent review and time to improve the pre-hearings process, Council will delay the start of PDP hearings until next year. This means, subject to the result of the review, the first of the six hearings, Living Environment, would begin in early February.