Aucklanders have until the end of next month to lodge submissions on the city's new planning rulebook, or Unitary Plan, says Environment Court judge David Kirkpatrick.
One of the first tasks Judge Kirkpatrick has done as chairman of the Unitary Plan hearings panel is to clarify dates for the closing of submissions.
The legislation setting up the hearings panel set a closing date for submissions of January 14, but the Auckland Council set a date for February 28.
Yesterday, the judge said he had indicated he would exercise the power under the law to waive the statutory time limit and accept submissions lodged by February 28.
The Unitary Plan is a controversial blueprint for Auckland combining suburban intensification and urban sprawl to fit another one million residents into the city over the next 30 years.
David Kirkpatrick, appointed an Environment Court and District Court judge six days after being appointed to head the eight-member hearings panel, is an experienced and respected resource management practitioner.
He represented the former Auckland City and North Shore councils as a partner at Simpson Grierson. As a barrister, he has acted for developers (for example, the Bunnings development in Arch Hill) and community groups (demolition of art deco houses in St Heliers).
Planner and former Auckland Regional councillor Joel Cayford said Judge Kirkpatrick was very experienced and astute on local government and resource management legislation and would be a strong chairman.
Dr Cayford and Sally Hughes, spokeswoman for the Character Coalition group of heritage and community groups, are pretty happy with the make-up of the panel.
Members include two former Super City politicians - Franklin councillor Des Morrison and Hibiscus and Bays Local board member John Kirikiri - and professionals with a mix of planning, resource management and economic backgrounds.
Concerns have been raised about the appointment of barrister John Fuller, who represented a group of landowners who pushed for a bridge from Karaka to Weymouth before pressure from residents on both sides of the Manukau saw it removed from the draft Unitary Plan.
Residents want Mr Fuller to stand aside on the issue.
Mr Morrison was in the minority group of councillors who pushed for greater intensification of Auckland's suburbs last year.
Judge Kirkpatrick said the panel was working on guidelines to help people appear before them and, like the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance, would adopt an informal setting to put members of the public at ease.
So far, 973 submissions have been received. Hearings are due to begin in April/May.
The process is expected to take about three years for the plan to come into effect in about 2017.