Attempts to put the principles of a new partnership agreement between Rotorua Lakes Council and Te Arawa into action for the first time have stalled.

Yesterday, district councillors voted to delay any decision on sweeping changes to how resource applications are treated.

The proposed changes would do away with the current Statutory Hearings Committee and replace it with two separate bodies, both of which would give iwi influence in planning and land-use decisions taken in line with the Resource Management Act.

At a committee meeting yesterday, the council's strategy and partnerships group manager Jean-Paul Gaston said the new model would provide "separation and transparency between policy and operations" in resource management policy and decision-making.


Mr Gaston also said the proposals reflected the council's commitment to give Te Arawa direct involvement in the hearing of resource consent applications.

But he was unable to convince a number of councillors that the changes were cost-effective or efficient.

"We have been pretty well served by our statutory hearings committee - I believe this is adding bureaucracy," said Charles Sturt, commenting on the proposed creation of a 10-person panel that would take over responsibility for resource consent hearings.

Under the proposals, panel members would be jointly recommended by the council and iwi.

The other arm of the council's planning and land-use process, a three-person committee to decide on policy, would be made up of two councillors and one iwi-appointed commissioner.

The current statutory hearings committee is responsible for both policy and consent hearings.

Mr Sturt reminded those present that he had voted in favour of the Te Arawa partnership, but expressed concern that handing over consenting powers to unelected individuals threatened to dilute the democratic process.

"We around this table are accountable to our community - we can't sign that off to other people."


His comments - which also included concerns over the potential cost of the changes - were similar to those made by councillors aligned with the Rotorua Pro-Democracy Society - Rob Kent, Glenys Searancke, Mike McVicker and Peter Bentley.

Speaking in support of the proposal, mayor Steve Chadwick said she welcomed the "professionalisation" of consent commissioners, suggesting that councillors should be more focused on policy rather than individual hearings.

Tania Tapsell said the new proposal represented an opportunity to "bring more confidence and transparency" to consent hearings, adding that such structural changes reflected a direction being taken by other councils.

"This is not new, it is just new to us."

Mr Sturt suggested councillors agree to park the issue until a future meeting: that motion passed unchallenged.

Proposal to replace Statutory Hearings Committee
-Aimed at giving iwi influence on resource policy and decision making
-Separates policy-setting and operational decision-making
-Includes three-person policy committee made up of two councillors and one iwi-appointee
-Ten-person panel, jointly recommended by the council and iwi, to decide on consent hearings
-Councillors split on merits of changes; decision delayed