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Property Council attacks the local body consent monopoly

By Chris Hutching

Friday 5th May 2000

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The Property Council wants to break the local body monopoly in resource consent processing by allowing private consent processors.

To avoid being given the runaround, its members also want regional and district councils abolished in favour of a single authority for each area.

They also want conditions set on who can be a commissioner, to be able to apply directly to the Environment Court for resource consents, and less public notification of developments.

The Property Council (formerly the Building Owners and Managers Association) has outlined its views in a submission on the proposals in the Resource Management Amendment Bill before the transport and environment select committee.

Council members are 500 companies that own or manage real estate assets worth more than $14 billion.

The Property Council generally supports the bill but wants an urgent review of how requests for variations to proposed plans are handled, as it says the changes may take up to eight years to become operative and there is no process set down in the legislation.

It also wants further amendments to the bill to enable objectors to be heard by an independent commissioner and wants the select committee to look at whether a single-authority model would be better.

Current provisions in the bill modifying the functions of regional councils are "little more than tinkering," the council claims.

It says the Resource Management Act should be more enabling than protectionist. It identifies contestable resource consent processing as a crucial area the bill goes some way to addressing but says it falls short of achieving benefits.

There would still be a "roadblock" allowing councils to delay private consent processor recommendations. The council says private consent processors must be indemnified by the local authority from the costs of defending their recommendations on consents and notification.

The council supports proposals about further requests for information from applicants about projects.

"The current s94 provisions are creating great uncertainty, confusion and in some cases blatant abuse of power ... requiring a judgment call based upon highly subjective tests ... reflected in the rising number of actual or threatened applications for High Court review."

Public notifications are identified as an area ripe for extortion from third parties who can delay projects for up to two years on payment of the $55 fee for lodging an appeal. The council wants limited notification.

It strongly supports developers being able to apply directly to the Environment Court for consents but says resourcing and process issues must be addressed.

It welcomes the appointment of hearing commissioners but wants clarification of how they are to be appointed.

It proposes that other council representatives such as community board members be excluded and that people who have been elected within the previous three years also be disqualified from sitting as commissioners. A rotational system of appointments would avoid manipulation.

The council strongly opposes the inclusion of "cultural values" in the new definition of environment.

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