Call to beef up plan for Super City spaces

By Bernard Orsman

Outstanding natural landscapes, public open spaces and heritage sites should be written into a spatial plan for the Super City to protect them from development.

That is the view of councils, environmentalists and heritage campaigners, who support the spatial plan, but want it strengthened.

The spatial plan is part of the Super City jigsaw and part of the Government's mantra of "one council, one mayor, one plan" for Auckland.

It will replace the Auckland regional growth strategy and provide a comprehensive strategic plan to map out Auckland's future for the next 20 to 30 years.

But several people making submissions on the Government's final piece of Super City legislation believe the plan has flaws that must be fixed.

They want features such as outstanding natural landscapes, public open spaces and heritage sites added to the spatial plan.

And they want specific reference to the "four well-beings" - social, economic, environmental and cultural - in the Local Government Act.

Parnell Heritage secretary Kate Tolmie-Bowden said the group was concerned that the spatial plan did not recognise heritage and its important role in enhancing Auckland's environment and economy.

The Manukau City Council believes the way the legislation is drafted will lead to "minimalist" input by the public in the development of the plan.

There are also concerns over how the spatial plan - prepared under the Local Government Act - will relate to resource management policies and plans.

Auckland regional councillor Joel Cayford has called the plan a stand-alone plaything.

The Environmental Defence Society has urged that the plan include a reference to the metropolitan urban limit, which sets the boundaries for urban development.

Society chairman Gary Taylor also said the links between the spatial plan and national, regional and district planning instruments had not been carefully considered.

Owen McShane, of the Centre for Resource Management Studies, said if the Auckland Council had a spatial plan operating with a resource management plan, the courts would have to rule on conflicts.

A Cabinet paper prepared by Environment Minister Nick Smith says a staged approach will be taken in establishing the spatial plan.

Initially it will not have legislative links to the other plans of the Auckland Council because the Government is still working on reforms to the Resource Management Act.

Whether the spatial plan should replace existing strategic plans, legislative links between plans, appeal rights and so forth will be decided at the next stage of the resource management reform process.

Grant Hewison, a local government expert with law firm Kensington Swan, said it would take one to three years to develop the spatial plan, by which time the resource management linkages should have been resolved.

Unlike regional and district plans, against which people could appeal to the Environment Court, the spatial plan would have no appeal process other than a judicial review to the High Court, he said.

Mr Hewison said the advantage of no appeal rights was that the plan could be prepared more quickly and have certainty and authority.

The downside was no opportunity for submitters to appeal to a court to consider the merits of their arguments.

* Strategic plan to map Auckland's future.
* Replaces the regional growth strategy.
* Prepared by new Auckland Council.

- NZ Herald

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