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Tight submission response times irk Otago councils

5 April 2013

Tight submission response times irk Otago councils

The Otago Mayoral Forum is concerned that timeframes for councils to make submissions on government proposals to change key legislation are becoming increasingly tight.

The Government recently released two discussion documents. The first, Improving Our Resource Management System proposes substantial changes to the Resource Management Act. The, second, Freshwater Reform 2013 and Beyond, includes substantive proposals for the future management of New Zealand’s water resources.

Otago Regional Council and Mayoral Forum chairman Stephen Woodhead said both documents were welcome as tools to progress legislative reform. However, because the areas they addressed were complex, any changes councils might propose needed to be well thought out.

The government had allowed around 20 working days for the community and councils to make submissions on each of the two documents, which was too short given their size and complexity, Mr Woodhead said.

The mayoral forum has written to the Minister for the Environment asking that longer timeframes are included in future consultative processes.

“It is vital for good policy development that councils and the community are given adequate time to provide thorough input on important documents such as these. One month, with holidays such as Easter in the middle, is simply not long enough,” Mr Woodhead said.

As the main vehicles for administering Government legislation at a local level, councils were in a unique position to recommend refinements which would enhance existing legislation.

“The reform of resource management policy requires a thorough analysis of the current problems and the ramifications of the proposed new outcomes, if we are to avoid offsetting one problem by creating another,” Mr Woodhead said.

“Whilst Otago councils support some of the proposals outlined in the two documents, several of the significant proposed changes undermine the input from the community and councils in RMA processes, which is undemocratic and of concern.”

For any response to be meaningful and promote efficient and sustainable resource management, councils and the community needed a realistic period to compile it, Mr Woodhead said.


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