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Poor Local Council Processes Frustrate RMA


23 August 2004

Media Release

Poor Local Council Processes At Heart Of Business Frustration With The Resource Management Act

Businesses blame a lack of consistent administration and guidance from local councils on RMA processes for the frustration, delay and costs they experience when getting consent applications decided.

Of the more than 350 responses to an Auckland Chamber of Commerce survey on a number of issues, 64 (18%) gave details of how they had been directly frustrated by the Resource Management Act.

Most bad experiences related to how local councils administered RMA consent applications, with the overwhelming majority citing examples of councils’ inability to process applications on time, inconsistency, lack of responsiveness and poor technical standard of council employees responsible for processing applications.

Respondents gave examples in which projects had been delayed weeks, months and years and which had added thousands of dollars – and in some cases hundreds of thousands – to the cost.

Concerns with councils ranged from delays with getting a hearing, officers taking leave and no one else being able to action an application, staff unwilling to take decisions without political sign-off, senior officers overturning a junior’s advice, lack of anyone being available to provide practical help.

Respondent comments included:
- Every council has different rules and the council staff are not consistent;
- The longer they (council) took, the more money we had to pay them – all very upsetting and wrong;
- “I dread going through the process – it’s so slow, full of unanticipated hooks, and very expensive.”
- The Act poorly serves businesses, as it provides little certainty as to outcome, timeframe and cost.
- In many instances local authorities are using the consent process as an additional revenue source – i.e. charges do not relate to costs.

Suggestions to fix the problem overwhelmingly focussed on attaching to the Act’s process a consistent, transparent time-limited set of rules and interpretations that local authorities should be obliged to follow.

Commenting, Chamber CEO Michael Barnett said the survey had been undertaken to provide feedback to Government on what was plainly a serious issue for many businesses.

“The survey result confirmed that the issue with the RMA is not so much the contents of the Act preventing developments proceeding, but how it is administered by local authorities.

“Clearly there is a lack of consistency and customer focus by many councils towards applicants and a lack of appreciation of the huge cost that time delays in processing applications place on business – problems that should be able to be easily solved by better professionalism, education and training of RMA staff.”

ENDS

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