Anger as critics of RMA rejig miss out

By Joseph Barratt -

Anger is building among Auckland groups over what they see as a lack of public input into reforms of the Resource Management Act.

The past two days have seen a range of submissions to Parliament's local government and environment select committee sitting in Auckland on proposed changes to the act.

The problem, say interested groups, is no one contacted them to let them know when or where the hearings were to be held, or when their submissions were scheduled to be heard.

Some groups missed their opportunity because of the lack of notice, and the committee has promised to hold tele-conferences so they can put their views.

The groups also claim that up to eight unrelated groups have been required to share one 20-minute slot.

The two days of hearings compare with four days in Wellington and one in Christchurch. That decision was made by the committee.

Sigrid Shayer, chairwoman of the Tree Council, believes the MPs are under too much pressure.

"We were told by the select committee that they are having trouble fitting everybody in. In some cases they are putting eight unrelated people together to share a 20-minute time slot.

"So now they are only taking people who think of calling up [to find out when their presence is scheduled]. Thankfully we did last week so we managed to get in."

Joshua Arbury, a planning consultant, filed a submission requesting to address the committee but never heard back. Last Tuesday he phoned Parliament to find when he would be able to have his say and was told he was too late.

"They managed to arrange a teleconference call for me to talk to them next week but until I called them there had been no contact.

"It's worrying when you think around 90 per cent of submitters would have said: 'Yes, I want to be heard.'

"Normally when you make a submission and say you want to be heard, the select committee contacts you to arrange a time to meet with them.

"I'm lucky I still get to make one through the teleconference. But my concern is for the 800 or so people who made submissions and then have not contacted Parliament and miss out."

Eden-Albert Community Board chairman Christopher Dempsey says he knows of several organisations that have missed out, including the New Zealand Planning Institute. "They [the committee] just don't seem to be bothering to tell anyone."

Committee clerk Pavan Sharma admits there was one instance of eight people having to share a 20-minute slot but says it was because they all submitted similar scheduling requests.

He says it is not too late for people who made submissions to make a case to the committee. "We will be contacting the people who missed out to arrange teleconferences."

The committee is looking at more than 100 changes to the act and is expected to report by June 19.

* Streamline and simplify consent procedures.
* Provide priority (90-day) consenting of major projects.
* Reduce costs and delays.
* Speed up plan-making processes.
* Restrict anti-trade competition, vexatious and frivolous objections.

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