District Plan Turnaround

KCDC Chief Pat Dougherty
KCDC Chief Pat Dougherty

KCDC changes plans on the Plan — drops adviser after one day on the job

By Alan Tristram

In a remarkable about-face, the Kapiti Coast District Council (KCDC) has responded to community pressure by dropping a top planning reviewer appointed  to review the Proposed District Plan (PDP) — after he’s spent just one day on the job..

The Council CEO, Pat Dougherty, obviously wants to be squeaky clean in his approach to the highly– controversial new District Plan and believes there could be a perceived conflict of interest.

The KCDC is also getting a top ‘independent’ lawyer to keep an eye on things.

The Council says: “To ensure the community can have absolute confidence in the independence and integrity of a recently-commissioned independent review of the Proposed District Plan (PDP), Chief Executive Pat Dougherty has announced some important changes to the process.

“On reviewing the independence of the planning expert, the Chief Executive has decided to replace Leigh Auton, who has only done a day’s background reading to date.

“Mr Auton chairs the Recovery Solutions Board which is an Auckland-based mental health provider.  Stephen McArthur, Council’s recently-appointed Group Manager Strategy and Partnerships, is also a Trustee and Deputy Chair of the Board.”

Mr Dougherty says” “Mr Auton had also been contacted as a referee (at the Council’s request) by the recruitment company involved in Mr McArthur’s appointment to the Group Manager’s role at Council.  On reflection, I believe this could be perceived as Leigh Auton not being 100% independent, given that Mr McArthur has management accountability for the District Plan.

“My decision in no way questions the skills, expertise and integrity of either Mr Auton or Mr McArthur, as I hold both in high regard.   I simply need to ensure our review process is sound and the Council is able to make robust decisions for all parties on the way forward for the PDP”.=

This association was declared as part of selection process for Leigh Auton ,but Mr Dougherty says he did not consider it material at that time.

“It was Leigh Auton’s planning expertise and independence from the PDP development process that were foremost in my mind. However, in reviewing this decision as part of considering the legal expert appointment, I have decided, in the interests of public confidence and legal safety, to seek a replacement expert planning reviewer.

“I do this reluctantly because of Leigh’s impeccable credentials but, if we are to truly build bridges with the community to move forward on the PDP, our processes must not only be absolutely transparent, but seen to be administratively, ethically and legally robust.”

Independent legal expert too

Mr Dougherty has also announced that an independent legal expert will be appointed to supplement the independent planning expert on the review.

Mr Dougherty says Council has responded to requests from Coastal Ratepayers United (CRU) and rural submitters to involve someone in the review with this expertise.

“CRU and the rural submitters have provided some names of appropriate individuals for us to consider and an appointment is expected in the next week or so.”

New appointment after consultation

The CEO also says a replacement for Mr Auton will be appointed shortly, after discussions with CRU and appropriate community representatives.  Council will be writing to submitters once the experts are confirmed.

Council commissioned the review of the PDP after public concerns over aspects of the Plan were raised in formal submissions and during pre-hearing meetings with submitters.

The reviewer’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.

Formal hearings due to start at the end of this year have been delayed until the results of the review are known early next year.

 

 

 

 

For more information call Anna Kenna 04 296 4676 or 0275555676

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Can we expect a public apology from the KCDC CEO in relation to a basic lapse of judgement in the conflict of interest issue raised around Leigh Auton’s PDP review appointment and subsequent termination of his contract one day into his work, (as issued through a KCDC press release) , wasting both time and ratepayers money?
Is the CEO at all embarrassed?
Can we expect the Mayor and Councillors to take this lapse into account during subsequent CEO performance reviews?
We live in hope.

Mayor Church during the election campaign promised a change from the previous regime. The appointment of Councillors Gaylor, Amundsen and Lloyd to the chairs of the main committees hardly bodes well or gives the community any reassurance that real change is on the agenda.

Come on Mayor Church, deliver on your election promises. The community will be watching you to deliver real change.

At todays KCDC Council meeting the CEO, when asked during public speaking time, confessed his embarrassment and offered a public apology for his stuff up over the Leigh Auton conflict of interest declaration saga. Brownie points to the CEO.
I acknowledged that this level of openness and honesty would be appreciated by the ratepayers.

Mayor Church defended his choice of the main committee chairs. The issue for me is the promise of change so clearly sought by the electorate must be reflected in changes of the old guard not least for the sake of restoring public confidence in Council particularly over the PDP.

Mayor Church so far has promised he will listen to people as well as be available to the press.

A change of culture is required within Council which requires more than just listening. It requires open and honest consultation and a regard and respect for public input to the Council’s affairs.

Lets hope that todays first full Council meeting is a very small step in the right direction. We will be watching how the campaign promises unfold in reality. Our expectations are high.