Govt announces review of Far North Council's consent processes

  • Nick Smith

Environment Minister Nick Smith today announced a review of the Far North District Council's functions under the Resource Management Act.

"I am authorising a formal investigation into the Council's performance under Section 24A of the Resource Management Act," Dr Smith said.

"The Far North District Council processed just 37% of resource consents within the statutory timeframes in the 2007/08 Ministry for the Environment Resource Management Survey - a decline from 51% in the previous survey in 2005/06.

"I acknowledge the Far North District Council has taken some steps in the last year to improve its performance in this area. I want to work constructively with the Council through this process to ensure the RMA is well administered in the Far North.

"The review is constrained to resource management functions unlike the wider investigation into Environment Canterbury. The review will occur in November with a report concluded by the end of the year.

"The Far North is very dependent on the efficient management of its natural resources for its wealth and unique lifestyle. This review is about ensuring these functions are done as well as possible for the people of the Far North."  


Terms of Reference for Review of Far North District Council's Performance

•1.    Purpose of Investigation

  • 1.1. The purpose of this investigation is to identify what has led to the councils' poor performance record over the last year and identify possible solutions.
  • 2. Scope of the Investigation
  • 2.1. The investigation will cover the following factors :
  • Applications : guidance for applicants and use of section 92
  • Analysis of consent processing systems and practices
  • Council staffing and use of resources
  • Administrative systems and tools
  • Internal audits and monitoring
  • Customer relationships and feedback.
  • Other contextual matters.
  • 3. Methodology for Investigation
  • 3.1. Investigations will be undertaken by an external consultant with RMA resource consent experience, with project management and oversight being provided by the Monitoring Compliance and Review Team at the Ministry for the Environment. Project support will be provided by the Resource Management Practice Team.
  • 3.2. The consultant and an analyst from the Monitoring, Compliance and Review Team will spend three days with each council undertaking discussion with council staff and assessing databases, file information and council administrative systems. Council staff that will need to be available will include the Consent Manager, several Consent Officers, the Planning Administrator (if applicable) and Customer Services staff (if applicable). The discussion will be based around a set of investigation questions (Attachment 1). These questions, along with further information on the documents to be assembled prior to the investigation, will be pre-circulated to the councils.
  • 4. Reporting
  • 4.1. The findings (including any recommendations) from the investigations will form the basis of a draft report to be discussed with the council before being finalised and presented to the Minister for the Environment. A copy of each final report will be provided to the relevant council concerned.
  • 4.2. These investigations may result in recommendations being made to each council on ways to improve their performance under section 24A(b) of the Resource Management Act. This may include further monitoring of the councils performance.
  • 5. Term of investigation
  • 5.1. The investigations are planned to take place over a three day period in November 2009.
  • 5.2. The findings from the investigation will be reported back to the Minister for the Environment by 11 December 2009.
  • 5.3. Any final recommendations on ways to improve council performance will be reported to the councils following the report back to the Minister on council performance.