The Auckland unitary plan hearings panel expects to issue interim guidance – not recommendations – by mid-March on the principal issues arising from submissions on the regional policy statement.
The independent panel’s chairman, Judge David Kirkpatrick, called a conference of parties on 27 January and issued his minute advising of how the panel would proceed on 9 February.
Judge Kirkpatrick clarified one issue which bothered some counsel, whether interim decisions would give effect to the existing regional policy statement (put in place by the Auckland Regional Council) or the proposed policy statement. The answer: to the proposed policy statement.
The panel is required to make all its recommendations to Auckland Council by 22 July 2016, on what will be a combined plan – a regional policy statement, a regional plan including a regional coastal plan, and a district plan.
Judge Kirkpatrick said 2 difficulties arose. The first was for submitters wanting to address proposed regional & district plan provisions, and therefore wanted the new regional policy statement in place to guide them.
The judge said there was also a legal issue affecting the status of the existing policy statement, and the jurisdiction of the hearings panel – whether it could take the proposed policy statement into account as it made recommendations on the proposed regional & district plans.
The judge said the panel had concluded it shouldn’t issue interim recommendations because that might stop it revisiting a subject. The time required to formally prepare recommendations and for the council to consider & notify them, followed by possible appeals, could seriously delay the whole process of continuing to hear submissions.
This decision suits the council, whose lawyers made it clear the council didn’t want recommendations coming to it in tranches.
The panel obtained its own legal advice from Dr Royden Somerville QC, of Dunedin, who said the unitary plan legislation didn’t provide for interim recommendations at this stage.
Judge Kirkpatrick said the panel wouldn’t be bound by its interim guidance when it came to making recommendations. In the meantime, he said, “such guidance would not be open to correspondence: we would not want to turn this into a debate outside our usual hearing process.”
However, submitters & witnesses could refer to the guidance. When council staff seek recommendations from a council committee on positions to take in mediation or at hearings, the panel wants them to say whether proposed positions support or oppose the guidance – and, if opposed, why.
Link: Panel minute
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28 January 2015: Panel to make crucial decision affecting course of unitary plan hearing
Attribution: Judge’s minute.