Local Government's Rma Practice Revealed

  • Simon Upton

"Time and money wasted through poor practice in Resource Management is time and money not available for improved environmental management".

That was the message given by the Minister for the Environment, Simon Upton, at the launch of a set of studies which analyse the performance of local authorities throughout the country in administering the Resource Management Act.

The Annual Survey of Local Authorities gathers comparative information on a number of resource management processes including time limits, public participation, enforcement, requests for further information and environmental monitoring.

The Telecom Case Study uses 80 randomly selected Telecom cell site applications all over the country to identify whether delays are occurring, the extent of any delays, the reasons for those delays and a what stages in the consent process they occur.

The Front Yard Setbacks Study assesses the effectiveness of front yard setback controls, asks whether they are achieving the
anticipated environmental outcomes, and considers the time and costs spent on applications.

These studies show significant variability in council performance.

Mr Upton said, "they provide a well-researched platform on which councils can benchmark their performance compared with others in New Zealand. While I accept statistics can be misleading, I'd expect these surveys to set some councillors and council staff thinking about whether they are performing as well as they could".

"If every council could match the best performance recounted by these studies we could see very significant savings in time and money".

Mr Upton said that more studies were planned because they showed where the best Resource Management performance was occurring, how it might be emulated, as well enabling councils to draw a host of generic lessons. "And the quality of the information revealed by the surveys and studies will improve every year".

Also being launched today by the Local Government Forum, with the Ministry's assistance, is a Subdivision Consent Processing Best Practice Guide. Mr Upton commended this initiative which, he said, would provide useful guidance and opportunities for self assessment by councils.

The survey, studies and guideline launched today all fit into a wider and on-going work program by the Ministry for the Environment aimed at improving the operation of the Resource Management Act. The work programme embraces training, case studies, the development of practice guidelines as well as amendments to the legislation aimed at improving the efficiency of processes.

"They will be worth the effort if the energies of practitioners were freed to concentrate on the real purpose of the RMA - improved environmental management", concluded Mr Upton.