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ENVIRONMENT

Government support for Unitary Plan welcomed

Thursday 18 October 2012, 4:44PM
By Auckland Council
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AUCKLAND CITY

Legislative change that will greatly speed the implementation of the Auckland Council Unitary Plan has been welcomed by Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse.

“I’m pleased the government has agreed with council that the Unitary Plan needs to be implemented in a timely fashion and they have taken on our key suggestions for streamlining the process,” says Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse.

“This change is significant for Auckland and New Zealand as a whole. As the country’s biggest city and economic powerhouse, we simply cannot afford delays to something that will have a huge impact on our ability to build the mix of homes we desperately need, to grow our economy and to protect our environment and heritage.

The legislation proposed by the Government would see Auckland’s planning rulebook – the Unitary Plan – implemented within three years of being formally notified, rather than being caught up in legal wrangling for up to ten years.

There has already been extensive input from regional and local stakeholders to shape the initial draft that will be brought out next March. There will then be an extensive two-month engagement from March to May, with that feedback used to shape the proposed plan which will be brought out formally in September 2013.

The changes will mean that this proposed plan will go to an independent hearings panel to hear submissions and make recommendations back to the council. Where the council agrees, the plan will become operative from that point, subject to appeals to the High Court on points of law. If council disagrees with any elements, those parts can be appealed to the Environment Court.

“Council and our Local Boards will now consider the proposed legislation and discuss the detail within it. However, I am very pleased that the Government recognises the importance of streamlined implementation of the Unitary Plan to the country’s future, and we have worked closely with them on developing these proposals.”

The Unitary Plan will take over from 12 existing regional and district plans, some of which are more than a decade old. As well as unlocking housing and economic growth, it will reduce costs.

It will also provide consistent protection of environment, character and heritage in our older suburbs and across the region – something that Aucklanders have been strongly calling for.

The planning rules are being developed to deliver the vision of the Auckland Plan, which was shaped with input of more than 15,000 Aucklanders. That public input will play an equally important role in the Unitary Plan.

Deputy Mayor Hulse says that this process would be a considerable extension of the usual engagement that a plan gets, with two extra rounds of informal consultation that will actively shape the plan. She says it demonstrates the council’s commitment to truly inclusive engagement that reached all Aucklanders, not simply those who could afford to get involved in long legal appeals.