A New Plan for Auckland: What Next?

A New Plan for Auckland: What Next?

The Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan has attracted widespread interest with an estimated 9000 submissions lodged by the closing date of 28 February 2014. The Council is now busy compiling a summary of all these submissions which is expected to be released by the end of May. Once this is published there will be an opportunity to make further submissions in support or opposition to the points raised. Another important possibility to be aware of is that any parts of the Proposed Plan that have not been submitted on can be treated as operative. An Independent Hearing Panel has been given the task of working through the process of submissions, and any further submissions and hearings before making their recommendations. The Panel members are Judge David Kirkpatrick (chair), Des Morrison, Janet Crawford, Paula Hunter, John Kirikiri, Stuart Shepherd, Greg Hill and Peter Fuller. The Panel has been given a tight timeframe with an aim of the Plan becoming operative within 3 years of notification (2016). At a recent presentation by Judge Kirkpatrick,  he indicated that he would be looking to professionals involved in the process to work together without being adversarial in order to find collaborative solutions. The Panel will be directing parties to meet and refine the issues before hearings take place. As such, Judge Kirkpatrick expects a substantial amount of Alternative Dispute Resolution (similar to mediation in the Environment Court) at the end of this year and next year. There will be an expectation to be involved in these meetings and the consequences of not attending a pre hearing meeting without reasonable excuse may be that the submission is discounted. These comments by Judge Kirkpatrick indicate that it is a good idea to start discussions with the Council or other parties as soon as possible to see if agreement can be reached on any points of submission.  In particular, this may be worth pursuing in the case of site or precinct-specific submissions. The Panel will use a website to provide useful information such as panel schedules and direction on the process (www.aupihp.govt.nz). Judge Kirkpatrick advised that a similar process is likely to that of the Board of Inquiry. We can expect strict timeframes, expert caucusing, guidance on evidence, exchange of evidence prior to the hearing and hearings focussed on key issues.  The Auckland Council made its own hefty submission on most of the Proposed Plan in order to address errors and issues they had identified since its notification. There is a possibility that this submission may be dealt with first, so that recommendations can be made very early, and a tidied up ‘’recommendations version’’ of the Proposed Plan can be made available. The next 2 ½ years will offer opportunities to get involved in this process of creating a new plan for Auckland and we will be closely watching this space. 

This thought leadership article by Clare Covington, a senior Associate at Harrison Grierson.

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