Archive | Land use

Chancery proves a winner

Botany shares retail property award

The first stages of the Chancery development in downtown Auckland won the Property Council’s supreme award on Friday night, heading off the challenge of AMP’s Botany town centre.

Both developments won excellence awards in the retail property sector.

The Property Council awards are unusual in that more than 1 excellence or merit award may be given — or none, as also happened this year.

Chancery as it stands now is a far cry from the 3-tower monster planned by NZI in the 80s. The upper parking garage for the NZI structure was completed, and Chancery’s directors discovered when they bought the site that the connection was in place to underground parking on the side facing Freyberg Place.

First development in Chancery was of upmarket fashion retail, with boutique offices above, and more office space in the building facing Bacons Lane. Highrise potential remains on the top part of the site.

The development by Chancery Ltd (Brian Mead & Richard Kroon) has only 9494m² of net lettable area, less than half of it retail, but in a form which has brought new life to the High St precinct, though its success hasn’t yet rubbed off on the neighbours at the Metropolis, across Courthouse Lane.

Helped secure Multiplex’s place

One element of success which did rub off, in the opposite direction, was for the building contractor. Australian construction giant Multiplex entered New Zealand on the Metropolis project, which local contractors weren’t willing to undertake, then moved on to Chancery and a succession of other jobs.

Botany, meanwhile, has proved a huge success for AMP, which holds the retail/office/community development midway between Manukau Central & Howick through AMP NZ Retail Property Ltd.

The Botany centre has 50,900m² of gross lettable area, including a covered fashion street. This project, designed in concept by Altoon & Porter of Los Angeles, with detailed design done locally by Hames Sharley, was a forerunner in moving New Zealand malls out of the enclosed-box style, combining a mixture of indoor/outdoor areas.

The supreme award was sponsored for the sixth year by Rider Hunt.

The Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority’s EnergyWise award was presented with the Property Council awards for the first time, going toTe Manawa O Akoranga reception & administration building at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) Akoranga campus, Northcote.

The building, designed by Jasmax, “is an excellent example of energy-efficient building design balanced with the functional needs of the business. The form & orientation of the AUT building takes full advantage of solar energy & natural daylight. The lighting & heating, ventilation & air-conditioning systems are well organised & controlled to complement the architectural features of the design,” EECA chairman Mike Underhill said.

Results:

Energy Wise award, sponsored by EECA:

Multi-unit residential (Fisher & Paykel):

Excellence, Waitakere Gardens retirement village, Henderson, 15 Sel Peacock Drive, 95 units now, 200 more planned, owned/developed by Vision Senior Living Ltd (Peter Bourke, with Robert Foster of Arrow International); architects Architects Patterson; engineers Buller George.

Merit

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Phenomenal October

National consents up 77%, including 1301 Auckland apartments

October was a phenomenal month for new residential building consents, especially in Auckland & especially for apartments.

The number of consents issued nationally rose 77% on a year ago to 3412. Of those, 1526 were for apartments, a 503% rise.

Auckland contributed 1945 (57%) of the new homes this October, of which 1301 (67%) were for apartments.

The year to October is 30% up on the previous year, nationally, in terms of consent numbers — 25,889.

The number of new apartments for the year was up 107% to 5048.

Statistics NZ said the number of new apartments for the month was the highest figure since it began its apartment series in January 1990. 11 consents were for units valued at $3 million or more.

The number of apartment consents exceeded 400 only 5 times in the previous 2 years, and every time that happened the overall number of new residential consents exceeded 2000. This time round, with 1526 apartment consents, the overall figure of 3412 new dwellings was the highest monthly consent figure since March 1976.

As usual this year, however, cost & size figures were variable in October (nationally).

The larger number of apartment consents averaged $78,440/unit, down from $86,166 in October 2001. For the October year, the figure rose slightly — from an average $86,442 to $89,105.

The high number of apartment consents brought down the average dwelling size by 19%, from 176.07m² a year ago to 143.02m². Average dwelling cost fell 13.6%, from $155,256 to $134,144, but the average cost/m² rose 6.4%, from $881.76/m² to $937.91/m².

The average cost/m² rose 1.27% (or $11.77) from September’s average of $926.14/m².

Spread over a whole year, the average new home size was up marginally to 178.65m², the average cost rose 5.8% to $159,751 and the average cost/m² rose 5.1% to $894.23.

Consents for alterations, additions & domestic outbuildings, at $80.2 million, were well above the value in any other month over the past 2 years except for a spike in May, when alteration work was worth $91.6 million.

Total residential consents, including alterations, were worth $537.8 million in October, by far the highest level in the past 2 years.

The $4.972 billion of new residential consents plus alterations & outbuildings for the October year was 33% above the figure the previous year and 18% above the figure for the boom year of 1999, when consents topped 26,000.

Regionally, the number of consents in Wellington for the month was nearly double at 292, and in the Waikato the level was up 27% to 246, but nowhere was as remarkable as Auckland, with a 130% lift, from 847 to 1945.

Within the Auckland region, Auckland City & its apartment consents were the standout, rising 724% to 1228 consents for the month.

North Shore City fell 6% to 95 consents, Waitakere rose 52% to 173, Manukau rose 38% to 217, Rodney District rose 46% to 147, Papakura District rose 563% (from 8 to 53) and Franklin District rose 54% to 43 consents.

Elsewhere, Wellington City rose 183% to 181 consents, Hamilton rose 63% to 101 and Tauranga rose 70% to 126 consents.

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Colliers Jardine manager cuts $400,000 from highrise energy bill

Fine-tuning heat and cooling systems did it

Colliers Jardine’s national manager of engineering & facilities management services, Val Moraes, has won an energy-wise award from the Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority, mostly for chopping $400,000 from the annual energy bill at the National Bank Centre in Auckland.

Mr Moraes said he took a scientific and analytical approach to monitoring systems and fine-tuning, rather than driving improvement by major refurbishments or overhauls. About 75% of common-area energy consumption on highrises occurs through airconditioning systems, so Mr Moraes brought big savings through intensive management and calibration of heating and cooling plant.

“In highrise buildings there’s always a conflict between heating and cooling systems. Both are run simultaneously to maintain balance. We’ve found that if we reduced unnecessary heating, the load on the chilling plant, which is a significant energy guzzler, was automatically reduced.”

Striking a highly consistent temperature balance also significantly improved the comfort of occupiers and helped operationally with dramatically lower complaint levels.

The Government’s new energy strategy is due out in October. The smart energy management measures that have been put in place at the National Bank Centre will mean it is one of the very few buildings in New Zealand that will not require any major upgrading or modification to meet the strict new standards,” Mr Moraes said.

The ability to cut energy costs is important in terms of tenant perception, as tenants focus increasingly on total occupancy costs, making buildings with lower operating expenses more sought after. “In the current leasing market, which is highly competitive, a proactively managed building is a significantly more marketable product.”

The National Bank Centre is jointly owned by Kiwi Income Property Trust and Capital Properties Ltd.

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Clutching on to power or ensuring better development?

Shore councillors hold back on delegation

North Shore City councillors spent a fair part of their morning yesterday arguing over which and how many of them should attend a Mainstreet conference in Wanganui in August, so it wasn’t going to be easy for them to let loose on the reins back home when the question of delegating authority to staff came up.

North Shore’s limited delegation of resource consent decision-making compared to other local bodies’ was noted at a national planning conference in April last year and a report on delegating minor matters to officers came before the council’s strategy & finance committee last month, but was deferred so councillors could consider a bit more information.

Cllr Wyn Hoadley promptly sought an amendment refusing authority for officers to deal with controlled activity applications for additions and alteration to existing buildings in the coastal conservation area which are not visually conspicuous from the coastline. But she thought officers should report only quarterly, not monthly, on decisions they did make.

She said that often the decision to notify an application was enough to get a developer to modify the proposal.

Cllr Tony Holman supported her on holding back the power of officers, saying “there are a lot of things that are more important than what are, or are not, visually conspicuous.” He noted that the Birkenhead and Northcote community boards had had no input into the debate, and said those areas’ heritage zones were being seriously eroded.

Committee chairman Jenny Kirk wanted to stop “going round and round to the extent that we will have no delegated authority to officers. We will continue to have councillors and community board members taking up inordinate amounts of time on twiddly little bits of consent matters, which are at considerable cost to this city.

“Here is an opportunity to save money, and we’re not doing that because we have to keep our finger on every little thing that goes on in this city.”

The council’s development services team leader, Lloyd Barton, said there was an opportunity on non-notified cases to speed up the process once a report was written, easing the frustration of the council’s customers.

Deputy mayor Dianne Hale said “anyone would think we were doing ground-breaking work here, delegating to officers who are professionals and the majority of us are lay people. It’s trying to get efficiency in the system. We are definitely not efficient.”

Cllr Gary Holmes found “it almost gives the impression of trying to hold on to as much power as we can. I’d like to see delegation go further [but] the view of community boards is important.”

Eventually, truncated delegation on controlled activity, second-stage, cross-leasing applications and some heritage zone alterations was allowed, with the chairman voting on her lonesome against the reduction.

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Panmure opponents of Liveable Communities strategy win reprieve

Plan set aside for workshops to be run

Vehement opposition to specifics of the regional growth strategy must make Auckland’s planners rethink how they’re going about the process of fitting twice as many people into the region over the next 50 years.

Panmure is a prize example of how, in a local view presented to Auckland City Council’s planning & regulatory committee last Friday, it’s all gone very wrong.

The region’s seven mayors and regional council chairman signed their agreement to the growth strategy at the end of 1999, as representatives of all the local bodies and therefore all the existing population.

The signing was done at a regional growth forum function at Eden Park. From the growth forum’s inception in 1996 there was input from the private sector (distinct from private sector organisation lobbyists), but my perception is that it wasn’t adequate.

Private interests were not all pulling one way — some developers wanted the forum to make it easier to build high-density housing along transport corridors and on brownfields sites, others wanted the ability to continue greenfields development, for example.

Their views are recorded, but the planning outcome mostly accords with what professional planners wanted as a solution to accommodating more than two million people by 2050.

Theory, practice, fireworks

Of course, that ought to be entirely sensible and proper. The real world doesn’t work to the perfect model, and Panmure’s uproar shows how stamping the theoretical design on an existing suburb isn’t going to work.

City council planners are now going back to the workshop process, putting to one side for the moment the Liveable Communities concept which got the Panmure community up in arms.

How many workshops there will be, they don’t know, environmental planning manager Penny Pirrit told councillors and submitters last week.

They will be on the future of Panmure and how growth might affect the area, she said.

Workshops have proven useful

Workshops have proven a useful way of getting ideas out of the locals, as has been done at Takanini and Hingaia in the Papakura district, and is starting to be done in parts of Rodney. They’ve also been used in Auckland City — one example is the western corridor series.

Even so, ideas can be imposed, naturally so if the locals don’t quite know what they’re doing, haven’t arrived with an idea of what their neighbourhood might be like in half a century when they won’t be here, and don’t normally think about designing the neighbourhood’s gardens instead of mowing their own lawn.

From the observations of Michael Drake for the Panmure Community Action Group, the growth strategy planners haven’t understood this community at all. The essential issue is the high-density plan, growing the population by allowing widespread development of blocks 4-6 storeys high.

One planning argument is that this won’t all happen at once. Mr Drake’s response is that every such development will dominate at least six contiguous properties, and impact on the views and neighbourhood conditions of a wider area. “The zone of impact created by each development is such that less than 6% of the projected development has to take place to immediately affect every single existing home in Panmure.”

I suspect that argument would follow sprinkling of highrises, but might not apply fully if they were clustered or in strips.

10 strategic growth management areas

Auckland City’s Liveable Communities strategy, adopted last June, shows 10 strategic growth management areas. For Ellerslie-Panmure, it shows an existing dwelling density of 1:900m² in residential and business-zoned areas.

“The overall density under the proposed growth target to the year 2050 will increase net density to 1:380m², or 26 units/ha [from 11 units/ha now]. If growth is confined to existing residential areas only, future densities will equate to approximately 1:230m², or 42 units/ha.

Projections show a population rise from nearly 5500 to 13,400, household numbers from 2000 to 4900. For Panmure (without Ellerslie), Mr Drake said the rise in homes would be from 900 to 2200.

He said Panmure people were “surprised and distressed that council and its officers could be so insensitive as to propose the complete destruction of everything we value.

“Some councillors have expressed surprise that such alarm should arise to Liveable Communities when so little public comment was apparently made on the regional growth strategy. The explanation is simple: when it was suggested that a regional growth strategy be adopted to manage thousands more residents in the city, citizens not unnaturally assumed that existing open spaces such as the Mt Wellington quarry site or permitted medium– and high-density residential zones would be utilised.”

Claim of public consultation questioned

Mr Drake questioned the “public consultation” explanation in the strategic management area plan. “It clearly advances the idea that Liveable Communities is a done deal. Public consultation does not offer the option of rejecting the plan — it can only contribute to it before it is adopted by council.

“Such consultation has more an appearance of manipulation than democracy. It is our view that this plan is not improvable: it must be withdrawn.”

Miss Pirrit said that in going to the workshops process, “it [the strategy] has been put to one side.”

Councillors’ comments illuminating

Comments from three councillors on Mr Drake’s submission at the committee meeting were illuminating.

Committee chairman Juliet Yates said “We certainly don’t intend to create substandard housing.”

That comment can relate to both building materials and density, but with all the controls in the world in place, many developers opt for maximum use of the building envelope as first and only preference. In that, there is an irony: developers are complaining that councils have started to impose maximum levies in their new development contributions structures for financing infrastructure, while most building designs start at the envelope or floor: area ratio maximum then add some.

The outcome is, in numerous examples around Auckland over the past decade, a poorer environment than could have been.

Cllr Penny Sefuiva, who sits on the Western Bays community board so has an interest in the inner suburbs from Ponsonby through to Mt Albert, said her own world had changed dramatically: “If we’d had better planning we might have had better development.”

Why don’t we like medium density, McKelvie asks

Cllr Kay McKelvie asked Mr Drake: “Is there something about medium density which is inherently bad, or are we just not used to it?”

Mr Drake said the action group wouldn’t object to the Mt Wellington quarry site being used for higher-density housing (the council turned down an owners’ proposal for mixed-used development which included considerable commercial and retail space), but Cllr McKelvie moved on from there to a theme which is obviously in the back of councils’ and planners’ thoughts when they work on higher-density housing solutions: “Is there not a danger of people living in caravans, garages? If we don’t plan, with increasing population we’ll have shanty towns.”

My impression of the Panmure protest is not that these people were opposed to planning, or even to more people living in the neighbourhood. But they are opposed to insensitive, bad planning — one example Mr Drake gave was of a commercial design completely ignoring topography, an illustration on the Liveable Communities strategy of a building a couple of storeys high which just happened to be above a steep slope off Panmure’s main street, Queen’s Rd.

And the complaint about highrise residential blocks giving occupants the ability to look down on their neighbours is being taken seriously by planning commissioners and judges, who have rejected such developments in places where the growth strategists have thought they’d be sensible.

Those rulings indicate the councils and growth strategists have got at least some of the design wrong, while a protest like the Panmure group’s indicates the consultation process needs attention, as a starting point for better community evolution.

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Hobbs says biodiversity statement has to be workable or it’s no good

National policy statement on indigenous biodiversity should be notified at end of year

Environment Minister Marian Hobbs has been mocked aplenty for her foot-in-mouth propensity. But in an address to the Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society in Christchurch on 15 June, she advocated clear and simple language for a proposed national policy statement on indigenous biodiversity.

Among the essential ingredients she highlighted:

“First, the policy has to mean something. There is no point writing a national policy statement that is so woolly that nobody has any idea what to do with it.

“By definition, national policy statements are at the top of a hierarchy of policy documents prepared by central and local government under the Resource Management Act. The words have to be clear and direct and strong.

“Second, it has be flexible enough to allow councils some discretion on how best to achieve good biodiversity outcomes. Having a strong policy statement should not translate into prescription. I believe the national policy statement must give local authorities the power to decide how they will achieve the policies in the statement.”I expect that a range of methods would be considered by decisionmakers to achieve the provisions of the statement. These would probably include incentives, voluntary mechanisms, education, rules, the preparation of strategies and active management.

“Now I know that some of you hold strongly to the view that the national policy statement should make councils put in place rules protecting biodiversity. I fully expect that rules will be an important part of any council response. But I do not accept that central government is better placed than local councils to determine the most appropriate responses to local situations.

“Having a blanket requirement for rules removes any discretion or incentive for a council to develop its own solutions suited to its own biodiversity and its own community.

“There is also a risk associated with regulation if it provokes resistance and undermines goodwill from those who are prepared to change their behaviours voluntarily. Whether the risk is worth taking requires an assessment of likely acceptability and enforceability.”

Ms Hobbs said the policy statement should be notified around the end of this year and a board of inquiry would hear submissions.

More of Hobbs on the environment:

Hobbs details objectives on sustainable management
Hobbs sets strategic environmental direction shift

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Rules changed to accommodate old garment district’s rejuvenation

Toronto’s ex-mayor & Yorkshire architect say putting on a cheery face helps economic growth

Former Toronto mayor Barbara Hall told the Urbanism Downunder conference in Auckland on Thursday the Canadian city “threw out the old use-specific zoning regulations and instead zoned by building shape” for the rejuvenation of a former industrial district just west of the finance district.

The King-Spadina district was once the centre of Toronto’s garment industry, which was decimated by the North American free trade agreement. Attempts were made to help that industry survive, but only a small part of it did, and the vestiges showed no signs of regrowth.

What changed King-Spadina initially, in 1996, was the illegal occupation of old warehouses by young people setting up homes. “We noticed artists were turning factories into living space,” Ms Hall, mayor from 1994-97 and a candidate for re-election this year, said in a conference keynote address. Instead of fighting the artists, Ms Hall said the city council built on the their efforts.

“Today King-Spadina is home to Toronto’s globally competitive multimedia industry and to the most expensive bars & restaurants. Old factories have been converted into condominiums. The resident population is about 7000.”

7000 units & 321,000m² of offices built in new chic precinct in 6 years

The council website says just over 7000 housing units have been built, or are in the pipeline, more than 321,000m² of commercial space has been created or is planned, much of it in former industrial buildings, and 16 development projects have included the conservation of heritage buildings.

Young adults with city jobs dominate the area, nearly 40% walk to work and about the same percentage don’t own a car.

Other Toronto subjects of interest to Aucklanders

Toronto City’s website also outlines other subjects of interest in Auckland at the moment — waterfront development, industry clusters and an economic development strategy.

The Toronto Waterfront Revitalisation Corp has initiated 4 projects to lay the groundwork for a new-look waterfront

It says the city council and the provincial government assessed 10 major industry clusters in 1999-2000, and said they now outperformed the North American average in terms of job growth. Importantly to Canadians, many were clearly ahead of major US metropolitan regions.

The city council has formed an economic development strategy over the past 5 years — not a workplan but pinpointing strategic directions.

Ms Hall and Yorkshire Forward director Alan Simpson, an architect who has worked closely on the revitalisation of 6 Yorkshire cities plus that area’s smaller centres &market towns, both gave attention in their keynote addresses & subsequent questioning to the importance of sprucing up a town or neighbourhood.

“Urban design is really about regional economic regeneration,” Mr Simpson said. Emphasising the importance of a positive appearance, he said the focus shouldn’t be on land & buildings but on public open spaces.

The Toronto City website elaborates on that theme in an economic strategy section, Quality of place attracts people & investment: “Toronto must continue to invest in & improve the quality of its built & natural environment, in order to remain on an equal footing with other cities that are the focus of massive reinvestment efforts by their state & national governments.

“The quality of our neighbourhoods, parks, ravines, schools, theatres, museums, galleries & urban design as well as our employment areas, roads, streets, sidewalks & public transit have a direct impact on our quality of life and therefore on our competitiveness.

“The strategy views the substantial physical infrastructure under our direct or partial control, as well as our social infrastructure, as strategic assets that can be leveraged to support economic growth and provide a competitive advantage over other jurisdictions.”

Yorkshire Forward developing industry clusters

Yorkshire Forward was established by the British Government to revitalise the Yorkshire and Humber areas. It has brought together groups called town teams, with representatives from the general citizenry, politicians & business people, panels to deliver expertise from around the world, and recently a pilot phase of development to deliver charters, master plans and public open space strategies.

Yorkshire Forward’s website highlights the 5 initial industry clusters, including the opening last month of the £7 million flagship Biocentre at York science park.

The Urbanism Downunder conference, at the Sky City convention centre until Saturday, has drawn about 400 people, including about 60 from Australia. The 1st of these conferences was held in Melbourne attracting about half that number.

Toronto City website

Regeneration in Kings-Spadina: Directions & emerging trends

Toronto Waterfron Revitalisation Corp

Yorkshire Forward

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Building consents shoot up in July

Annual figure average

Building consent for new homes shot up in July, but in a comparison with July 2001 the average size & value were down.

Statistics NZ said on Friday 2738 consents for new dwellings were issued in July, up 62% on July 2001.

For the July year, the increase was 22.5%, putting total consents of 23,621 around the same level as 3 of the previous 4 years. The exception, the year to July 2001, saw only 19,279 consents issued.

In value/dwelling, the July month figure worked out at $152,411, a 3.6% fall from 2001. But for the whole year the average of $161,420 was 8.3% ahead of the previous July year.

The average size of dwelling in July was 173.48m², down 1.3% on July 2001. But for the year, the 184.07m² average was 4.3% bigger than the previous year.

The average building cost in July was $878.53/m², down 1.4% on July 2001. For the July year, the average cost of $876.93/m² was up 3.9% on the July 2001 year.

While there was a general lift in consent numbers around the country (Gisborne went from 6 in 2001 to 9 this time, Taranaki from 11 to 20 and Nelson from 21 to 44), the rise in Auckland was a 100% increase, from 644 to 1291.

Broken down into the Auckland region’s 7 local authority boundaries, the increases were: Auckland City 460 consents, up 156%; Franklin District 37, 118%; Manukau City 238, 53.5%; North Shore City 182, 100%; Papakura District 39, 144%; Rodney District 142, 115%; Waitakere City 198, 62.3%.

Big rise in apartment numbers

July was a big month for apartments — 686 consents, well ahead of any month in the previous 2 years. The average cost was $92,711, compared to $70,103 in July 2001 and $68,447 in July 2000.

For the July year, the average was $94,251 compared to $88,768 in 2001 and $84,198 in 2000, $79,354 in 1999 and $72,285 in 1998.

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February building consents up 25%

Annual tally up 7.2% to 21,078

Building consents issued in February totalled 1745, a 25% increase over February 2001. The figure for the February year rose 7.2% to 21,078, Statistics NZ said today.

The average dwelling size was up from 177.5m² in February 2001 to 192.6m². Average size over the year to February 2002 was 180m², compared to 175.2m² in the previous year.

Average dwelling cost in February was $168,080, up from $147,602 in February 2001. For the February year, the rise was from $146,345 to $155,707.

Average cost/m² in February rose from $831.45 to $872.92. Over the year to February, the increase was from $835.35 to $865.05/m².

Far more apartments

February has been one of the quieter months for apartment consents in the previous 2 year, with 141 consents in February 2000 and 76 in 2001, but this time round there were 288 consents worth $32.6 million.

For the February year, 3062 apartment consents worth $266.8 million were granted, comparable in number but far more expensive than in the February 1998 year.

The total value of residential consents in February was $293.3 million, and for the year $3.28 billion. Total residential consents, including additions, alterations & outbuildings, were worth just over $4 billion in the February 2002 year, compared to a total $4.27 billion in the boom year to February 2000.

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New Rodney mayor creates novel governance structure

Committees to target new issues of high-growth district

Rodney District Council’s new mayor, John Law (left), has formulated a new committee structure which was put in place at the councillors’ first formal meeting on Friday.

The structure has seven committees. One, the governance funding & finance committee, has all councillors as members. Others have 5-7 of the 12 councillors as members.

The most important one for the property industry on a continuing basis is the hearings committee, headed by northern ward councillor Elizabeth Foster, one of the councillors suspended a year ago who was returned to office.

She will have with her one other former councillor, David Steele (western ward), three new eastern ward (Hibiscus Coast) councillors, Barbara Griffin, Rob Thompson and Wayne Walker, and western ward councillor Pat Delich as an alternate member.

Cllr Walker has campaigned on environmental issues for many years and has promoted alternatives to the Weiti bridge access to the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, which council staff have fought hard to create. Cllr Foster has also campaigned locally at Whangateau on environmental issues concerning the Omaha South development.

Hearings by councillors will start on Friday 18 May (a permanent change from Thursdays). Until then principal hearings commissioner Ken Graham will continue to hear resource consent applications.

The hearings committee will generally have three members hearing consent applications, but will also be able to contract hearings commissioners.

The council elected Christine Rose as deputy mayor for the first 18 months. Committee heads were also elected for 18 months.

The committees

Other committees are: Community, environment, regional & economic development advisory (including co-opted advisors), works & services, and a temporary district plan committee.

Mayor Law said there was a significant drive from central government for local government to take on more. “They are saying you must take on social issues, not just core services.”

For that reason, he said the council needed to have a structure catering for social, environmental and economic issues, and core services. He believed governance would become more important, with performance measures playing a significant role.

However, the detailed scope and powers of each committee had not yet been prepared.

All the new councillors took part in forming the committees, resulting in a straightforward formal vote in favour on Friday.

Issues and initiatives working parties

Councillors were also assigned to a long list of community issues and community initiatives working parties.

The environment committee’s roles will include:

Advising on alternative energy and building developments

Advising the economic advisory committee on developing alternative agriculture, horticulture and farming systems

Assessing the future needs of the community on waste alternatives and considering test areas for assessment

Conducting relations with the regional council on environment, planning and growth

Educating the public in many of these issues

And dealing with bylaws not heard by the hearings committee.The regional & economic development advisory committee’s roles will include:

Business development

Promoting fast-track permitting criteria

Economic protection and development

Tourism development

Advising the council on introducing and/or changing policies and bylaws to enhance growth

Increasing employment opportunities

Encouraging festivals and sports events

Making recommendations on improving the ambiance of shopping areas and the rural districts to improve economic growth

Forward and strategic planning

Relations with education institutions and with the regional council on investment

And to formalise a relationship with the Rodney Enterprise Board to attract substantial funding from outside institutions. Solutions-focused working groups

The community issues working groups will all have councillors assigned to them, with a responsibility to come back with short-, medium- and long-term solutions. Mr Law said all issues would remain on the council’s agenda until taken off. And he said the council would get a nine-seater van to take councillors and staff on site visits to deal directly with issues.

“You will see us in the community, not just sitting in these chambers.”

One new councillor, the council’s previous returning officer, Bill Smith, seems to have set himself up as the gung-ho council’s conscience, advocating (and getting) a reduction in councillors’ earnings, failing to get an immediate acceptance of evening meetings for at least the council, if not some committees, and suggesting that seven committees is too many.

But the mayor knocked back the suggestion of fewer committees: “If you’re running an efficient organisation, one of the worst things you can do is have committees that can’t handle the workload.

“There are just on 90 areas of responsibility for those committees.”

Mr Law said that if council committees weren’t in control of them, “staff and management start to drive policy, not the council.”

Local Government Association role and value questioned

One of the first casualties from the new council may be its relationship with the Local Government Association, whose leaders (around the time that leadership was about to be deposed) visited the council last year after half the council had resigned and the other half were about to be suspended.

Cllr Foster wanted to know the cost of this association and what it did for Rodney: “It didn’t do much for us before,” she said.

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