The Government will legislate to help the Auckland unitary plan hearings panel meet its statutory deadline.
The bill will make 4 changes to the Resource Management Amendment Act 2013, which provides for the independent hearings panel:
• A reduction in the quorum from 3 to 2 members
• Allowing extra panel members to be appointed
• Clarifying that the panel may hold concurrent sessions and alternate chairs appointed, and
• Enabling the panel to make recommendations to Auckland Council in stages.
Environment and Building & Housing Minister Nick Smith and Auckland mayor Len Brown said on Wednesday the bill would give the panel more flexibility and help it meet its deadline of reporting back to the council by 22 July 2016. The bill is expected to be passed by the end of the year and the hearings on individual site issues to begin in January.
Dr Smith said: “This bill is needed to maintain the momentum of lifting Auckland’s housing supply. The house build rate has been growing at over 20% since the housing accord was signed, to reach the highest point in a decade. We need the Auckland unitary plan & its enabling provisions for more housing development through both intensification & greenfields by October next year, when the special housing areas legislation expires.
“It has been a herculean task to complete the largest plan in the 24-year history of the Resource Management Act in record time. The panel has made great progress in hearing thousands of submissions on the plan’s policy issues, but now have over 5000 more on site-specific property issues. This will not be achievable without refinements in the process enabling multiple hearings panels to sit simultaneously next year. These practical changes will help the panel & the council to get the job done on time.”
Mr Brown said: “The unitary plan is the rulebook for the future of Auckland and it’s vital we get the process right & concluded on time. Any opportunity to improve the process by giving the panel more flexibility is welcome in principle.”
Attribution: Ministerial & mayoral release.