Councillor’s Rehette Stoltz and Manu Caddie may be the newest and youngest members of Gisborne District Council but they have proved that they can make good decisions along with the best of them. Both have recently qualified with the ‘Making Good Decisions’ certificate from University of Auckland. Both passed the course with merit.
Making Good Decisions is a programme designed to equip Councillors with the skills to make better decisions under the Resource Management Act (RMA). It is designed and promoted by the Ministry for the Environment and Local Government New Zealand.
The RMA requires that the majority of those who hear resource consents - the Hearings Committee - must hold the Making Good Decisions certificate.
What Councillors Stoltz and Caddie achieved was no easy task considering how little experience they have with the Hearing Committee says Chair Councillor Alan Davidson. “The course is intense and requires in depth knowledge not only of the Resource Management Act, but how to arrive at a decision which stands up to the tests of the Courts.
“It is not cheap to make applications and submissions on resource management and other issues. If you decide to take this step you can have confidence that those making the decisions are well qualified to do so."
Both Councillors reiterated that the Resource Management Act is a large, and in places complex, piece of legislation to understand and apply. There was a lot of new learning says Councillor Caddie. The assignment questions were quite tough given I'd only sat on one short hearing before we did the course.”
“I was surprised at some of the opportunities the RMA seems to afford decision-makers in terms of what can and can't be taken into account. Things like negative impacts on the mauri (life force) of a stream can be a valid reason for not allowing a proposed activity to happen. I think that is pretty progressive legislation in the way it recognises Maori values and relationships with the environment.”
““There are a range of rules designed to ensure the RMA process goes as smoothly as possible. Knowing about the most important sections of the Act, why we have it at all and what it can't do puts me in a much better place to help protect our environment.”
This is an excellent and essential tool for all Hearing Committee members to have says Councillor Stoltz. “Coming from a science background where things are very "black and white" when it comes to decision making, it was a big learning curve for me.”
“In the Hearings scenario, there are so many different aspects to take into account before making the final decision. Even though it might look like a straight-forward decision at the start of the hearings process, your thinking might change a lot once you start taking everything into account that the RMA expects you to do.”
“I learnt to systematically work through the RMA requirements to come to the best decision. Practical tips, like how to ask the right questions in order to clarify important issues, were all helpful aspects we learned. I now feel equipped to make the best decision after taking all the evidence and appropriate legislation into account.”
Other sitting members of the Hearing Committee - Councillors Davidson, Bauld, Haisman and Seymour – also hold current Making Good Decisions certificates. They have all attended further courses to have their certificates endorsed to chair hearings.
The Hearings Committee makes decisions on statutory and regulatory matters Council is charged with managing under legislation. Much of this work involves assessing applications by people to undertake certain activities in the District. For example planning and resource consents, liquor licensing, animal enforcement and objections to building consents.