Government welcomes draft Unitary Plan

  • Amy Adams

Environment Minister Amy Adams has welcomed the release of Auckland Council's draft Unitary Plan.

"This is the first step towards having the Unitary Plan in place within three years from its notification, rather than the 10 years it could have taken before the Government approved a streamlined process.

"I want to acknowledge the huge amount of work that Auckland Council has undertaken to get the draft plan to the current stage.

"The release of the draft plan also means Aucklanders now have a chance to look at it in detail and provide initial comment before it is notified later this year."

The Unitary Plan is a Resource Management Act planning document which stipulates where and how development can occur. It replaces the seven district plans inherited from the former councils.

Auckland Council has indicated it expects the Unitary Plan to be notified in September. Once notified, the formal statutory process of submissions and hearings begins. This part of the process is expected to take no longer than three years before most, if not all, of the plan is operative.

As part of the Government process to streamline the Unitary Plan, the council asked for the plan to be granted immediate legal effect.

The Government rejected this request as it considered it did not provide adequate recourse for Aucklanders to seek full and impartial review of the council plan.

Furthermore, even if the request had been granted, contentious aspects of the plan would still likely have been the subject of numerous appeals, meaning they would be unlikely to provide the immediate effect sought.

Before the Government approved a streamlined process for the Unitary Plan, it was estimated that it would take up to 10 years for the plan to be in place.

Once notified, the Unitary Plan will be referred to an independent hearing panel to be chaired by a retired High Court or Environment Court judge.

The panel will be similar to a board of inquiry.

After considering the Unitary Plan, the panel will deliver its findings by way of recommendations to the council.

Where the council accepts the panel's decision, the plan will be immediately operative, subject only to appeals on points of law.