Council revises District Plan timeline
Council has decided to slow down the District Plan review process to allow the community more time to consider and discuss issues around future land use and development in the district.
At today's Council meeting, Mayor Jenny Rowan, acknowledged there was a need to review the process in response to public feedback and apologised to landowners who felt they had not been adequately consulted.
"I want to assure you I get your concerns and I apologise for the upset and cost to those of you who feel our process hasn't been as inclusive as it could have been."
A number of speakers at today's packed meeting asked Council to withdraw the entire Proposed District Plan and start the process again.
Mayor Rowan said she did not support this because the current district plan is 12 years old and is badly in need of review.
"However there are clearly things we need to do to improve our engagement processes and provide greater clarity. I absolutely commit to you that we will shore up our processes and get back to connecting with you."
The Mayor said Council would delay the start of the hearings until early next year, get an independent planning expert to review whether the changes required can be made without withdrawing the PDP and make the prehearings more effective and inclusive.
In a written memo tabled at the meeting Stephen McArthur, Group Manager, Strategy and Partnerships, said he saw no grounds for the withdrawal of the Proposed District Plan PDP.
"I believe the RMA process is flexible enough to deal with submitter issues and concerns and withdrawing the PDP and restarting the process would be disruptive and very costly.
"We would have to re-notify the new PDP and go through the submission process again, existing problems with the Operative Plan would remain for much longer, create added uncertainty and Council could be in breach of its legal obligations under the RMA to review District Plan provisions every 10 years."
However Mr McArthur said Council was committed to improving the way it worked through issues with submitters and would look at involving Council's senior management in key policy issues to support planning staff.
Council aims to have all Council decisions on the Proposed District Plan made by the end of 2015 meaning no hearings or deliberations would be made in 2016, the year of the next local body elections.
Council unanimously agreed to amend the timeline to delay the start of hearings until early next year to allow time for an independent review to determine whether the plan can be changed or should be withdrawn.
A total of 768 submissions and 232 further submissions have been received on the Proposed District Plan which was publicly notified in November 2012.