Council Accused of Cutting Corners on Canal
For release 5th December 2006
Manukau City Council Accused of Cutting Corners on Canal Project
Manukau City Council has been accused of cutting important regulatory corners over the controversial canal housing development proposed for near Clevedon, to the south-east of Auckland.
For the last two weeks, council members have been hearing submissions for and against a District Plan Change needed to facilitate the development, known as 'The Wairoa River Maritime Village'. The hearing continues this week with three additional days in mid-December also earmarked for the proceedings.
In the course of presenting a personal submission, local resident and environmental scientist, Lindsey Britton, told councillors that the MCC should have insisted on a 'Social Impact Assessment' (SIA) long before the submission stage was reached.
In the absence of an SIA, the council could, she maintains, be considered to be acting ultra vires (beyond its capacity) in 'adopting' the plan change without this information to hand. This, she believes, could impact on the legal status of any decision councillors make as a result of the current hearing.
"Despite its name, the proposed development would not be a village but merely a housing project, built on man-made canals and designed for residence only. If the project went ahead, there would be up to a thousand new residents dependent for some of their needs on shops, businesses and recreational facilities in Clevedon Village itself. Inevitably, this would have major social and cultural impacts on the existing local community," she says.
"In circumstances such as this, the Resource Management Act requires developers to commission a Social Impact Assessment at an early stage in proceedings, as part of their 'Section 32 Analysis'.
"In this particular case, the need for an SIA was recognised by the Manukau City Planning Officer initially responsible for processing the Plan Change application. This officer subsequently resigned.
"Far from insisting on an SIA, Council decided to adopt the proposed Plan Change as its own. From that point on, there was an even greater onus on Council to ensure an SIA was completed" Ms Britton says.
"A Social Impact Assessment provides a knowledge base for the systematic appraisal in advance of exactly how a proposed development would impact on the quality of life of the people and communities affected. Typically, it involves extensive liaison and the gathering of opinions and information from members of the local community.
"Had Council commissioned an SIA at an earlier stage, certain key questions about Clevedon's abilities to meet the needs of up to a thousand newcomers would have become quickly apparent.
"For example, it is questionable whether there is sufficient capacity in the local kindergarten and after-school facilities and whether local doctors could respond adequately to a sudden large increase in patient numbers.
"It is also open to question whether Clevedon Village's current infrastructure would allow for the level of commercial expansion required by a greatly expanded population in the near vicinity. Certainly, many Clevedon Village properties have failed sewage treatment systems and, after heavy rain, in some parts of the village, sewage can be seen running over footpaths. Any solution to such problems could be many years away, due to cost overruns on the new Kawakawa Bay sewage treatment scheme," Ms Britton says.
"Manukau City Council has a justifiably strong reputation for consulting local communities over matters of social concern. It is very disappointing to see Council fall below its own high standards with respect to the canal housing project," she adds.
In addition to her role as an environmental scientist, Lindsey Britton has worked as Senior Policy Analyst with the Bradford and Northern Housing Association, one of the United Kingdom's largest not-for-profit housing agencies. In this role, she gained considerable insight into the human impact of new housing developments.
Lindsey Britton is currently Chair of Clevedon CARES, a community organisation formed to oppose the canal housing project.