coastal hazardsKapiti Council urged again to appoint independent commissioners for new District Plan

By Alan Tristram

Kapiti’s Coastal Ratepayers United (CRU) has called again for independent commissioners – not Councillors –  for hearings on  the new District Play for Kapiti.

The CRU was formed after the Kapiti Coast District Council imposed new hazard lines on 1800 coastal properties, registering these on  property LIM’s (Land Information Memos). It’s intended that these are formalised in the proposed District Plan (PDP).

‘Travesty of a hearing process’

Coastal Ratepayers United says immediate action is required to stop ‘this travesty of a hearing process imposed upon Kapiti ratepayers.’ CRU says a recent newspaper report revealed KCDC was wanting to rush through the proposed District Plan (PDP) the report stated:

‘Councillors acting as commissioners on the controversial district plan review will return regardless of whether  they are re-elected – with hearings forced to straddle two terms.

The majority of decisions on the plan will also need approval from the yet to be elected council.’

But the CRU says the cost to ratepayers of this process will be considerable, and a field day for lawyers and planning experts.

‘three inappropriate features’

It says there are at least three inappropriate features:

“The first is that all councillors have been appointed commissioners, yet only four have had the proper training.

“How are councillors, totally unfamiliar with planning issues going to be able to adequately consider a PDP that is already riddled with inconsistencies? The majority have no notion of the requirements needed to act in a quasi-judicial capacity?

“To expect these untrained commissioner-councillors to familiarise themselves with whole chapters of the PDP and then read and familiarise themselves with all of the relevant submissions is not credible. Even experts in  planning find the PDP, as currently written, difficult to follow.

“Councillor Diane Ammunsden has already said the PDP is an excellent document and is defendable. Others have said the work has been done on the Plan and it cannot be wasted. All councillors have been repeatedly told what a great plan it is.

“If KCDC proceed it is inevitable that there will be appeals to the Environment Court with enormous costs involved. It looks as though the current council is happy to pay anticipated legal costs and expert costs of $4 to $5 million.

“Secondly, KCDC is acting in a way that shows its total contempt for the democratic process.

“This council knows elections are only weeks away. It knows the PDP is controversial.

“If the  current council honestly believes, as Cr Ammunsden and Mayor Rowan claim, they have an excellent PDP, they should have no hesitation in saying,’ lets defer and let the people speak.’

“If the Mayor and councillors are right, they will get re-elected with a mandate to proceed. At the moment they are foisting a deficient plan on a reluctant community.”

Thirdly,  Coastal Ratepayers United says, there is ‘the golden parachute being given to the councillors who fail to get re-elected.’

“Jim Ebenhoh, KCDC Sustainable Development Manager, is quoted (in the newspaper report) as saying all non re-elected councillors ‘would do it as a paid independent commissioner.’   Commissioners are paid $100 to $200 per hour.

“The paper quotes Jim Ebenhoh as saying KCDC will start hearings on two chapters before the local elections, saying “one may be completed the other probably won’t.”

“Knowing that it is unlikely any chapter will be completed, and knowing so many councillors are likely to be paid at commissioner rate, it is inexcusable to proceed as KCDC is.”

CRU’s Answers

The answer, the CRU says, if KCDC will not halt the whole process, is to have all chapters heard by independent trained commissioners.

CRU in its original submission (p12) requested that a panel of 3 independent commissioners hear all of the Chapters.

It adds: “The Chapters are interlinked. There needs to be confidence that the outcome of the hearings process produces a consistent District plan that people can have confidence in for the next 10 years.

“KCDC’ admits it will meet the costs of paying untrained amateurs.Far better for that money to be spent on a professional well trained and competent panel.