Calls for the Hamilton City Council's chief executive to be given extra powers are being resisted by councillors because of fears they are losing control.

But the council's performance general manager, Blair Bowcott, said councillors were only speculating as they had not heard the proposal on decision-making powers involving the Resource Management Act.

The summary policy said council chief executive Barry Harris had the final say over the process followed for resource consent hearings and whether they were heard.

Under the recommendation, backed by the council's solicitor, Mr Harris would be delegated all powers relating to the Resource Management Act - with the three exceptions being the council appointing the hearing commissioner, approving the proposed district plan and where, under law, the council could not delegate its powers.


The policy will be discussed at a council workshop today and referred to a committee for a decision if it receives buy-in from the council.

But Mr Bowcott said "nothing fundamental had changed". He said the district plan and RMA set out strict rules which determined whether an application was heard.

"There's nothing new in what we are presenting to council here. Council are still going to be involved in the process. The choice is for them whether they chose to have a commissioner involved or not."

The policy review was the last stage in a series of reviews of delegations which started a year ago.

Statutory management committee chairman John Gower, whose committee handles RMA hearings and dog and liquor licensing applications, said the current system was common around the country and he believed it worked well in Hamilton.

He had mixed feelings about the proposed new policy which had "come out of left field for most councillors" and which he understood would eliminate the committee from hearing applications.

"I've got some hesitations. It's a bit like a jury in a court case and whether a judge should hear something alone - it's the same type of principle. Whether in actual fact the community has the option of hearing stuff by its peers or whether it wants to just go through a pure legal system and it be heard by the judge alone.

"I know staff would prefer to put everything out to commissioners."


Mr Gower also questioned whether the appointment of a commissioner would be quicker than having a matter heard by the committee.

The committee already appointed an independent commissioner if the council had a conflict because it was applying for the consent or if its workload was too heavy.

Councillor Dave Macpherson said the public expected the elected wing to be involved in the decision-making process in the RMA area. He believed the new policy was part of "the general move to get councillors out of the kitchen" and would address the issues planning staff had with elected members being involved in the process.