Mark Thomas - New Mayor for Auckland

Falling Unitary Plan Hearings Participation A Worrying Sign

The Unitary Plan Committee of Auckland Council was told this week that the number of submitters actually participating in the Hearings Panel process had declined again.

The report noted that participation rates for individual submitters are now 2.6%, community groups 7.2%, and special interest groups 9.2% . Then without any sense of irony the report noted: “This continues to reflect feedback from some submitters about the demands of the process.”

So for every 100 individual submitters who were notified about their hearing/mediation etc for the submissions they made, fewer than 3 are now participating. Perhaps even more worrying, organised community and special interest groups are below 10 out of 100.

9,400 submissions were received on the Unitary Plan by February this year and a further 3,800 submissions were made by July supporting or opposing the original submissions. Although these numbers include businesses and other organisational groups, it’s clear that thousands of Aucklanders who cared enough to make a submission on the Draft Unitary Plan (and that was not an easy process) are now, as the report note indicates, worn down by the process.

It’s good Auckland Council is collecting and reporting this data, however when I asked what was being done about it the answer was the typical “all that can be”.

It’s not good enough.

The council is making significant changes to the draft plan which will increase height levels in town centres and remove density controls in the wide-spread Mixed Housing zones. Some of these changes may be driven by new information, but they throw out the vigorously negotiated comprises in the Draft Plan that councillors and local board reps agreed prior to the 2013 local body elections.

To hear that council feels unable to do more to engage with public about these changes should concern everyone. Of course a legal process is underway and there are some constraints, but without taking people with us on these “plan changes”, and with those who have been engaged falling away, we run the risk in July next year – when the Mayor and councillors vote on the Plan – of not making enough progress for Auckland. Again.



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