Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search


Annual survey contains mixed reviews for councils

11 July 2000 Media Statement

News Backgrounder

Annual survey contains mixed reviews for councils

How are local councils implementing processes under the Resource Management Act (RMA) – the big law that comprehensively rewrote the way we manage land, air and water in New Zealand?

The Annual Survey of Local Authorities provides a useful snapshot of local authority practice with the most important of our environmental laws.

Just released, the fourth annual survey covers the financial year from 1 July 1998 through to the end of June 1999. For the first time all 86 local authorities responded to the questionnaire, making the survey the most thorough so far.

What did the survey find?
The document contained both good and bad news. Here are some of the highlights:

Good news
Councils have sharpened up their act in processing resource consents, with 82 percent processed within statutory time limits. This represents an improvement from 78 percent in 1997/98 and 76 percent in 1996/97.

A total of 40 percent of the appeals on resource consent decisions heard by the Environment Court were upheld in their entirety, and a further 42% were upheld but with some consent conditions changed. This indicates that local authority decisions on resource consents are generally of a high standard.

A high percentage of local authorities are using the good practice processes outlined in the survey and increasing numbers of councils are making a formal budgetary commitment to Maori participation in RMA processes.

Bad news
Only 55 percent of all publicly notified resource consents were processed within statutory time limits - a nine percent decrease from the previous year.
What is the survey for?
Based on self-reported data, the survey helps the Minister and the Ministry for the Environment to monitor the effect and implementation of the RMA, as required by law.

It also gives both the Ministry and councils solid information on areas that may need further work. It helps spotlight trends over time for some RMA processes and provides background information against which to consider comments on the Act.

Information taken from the surveys serve as a baseline for tracking local authority practice improvements against benchmarks established in the RMA and/or guidance produced by the Ministry.

What will councils get out of the survey?
Importantly, results from this survey will allow local authorities to compare their performance with their peers and to share information about good practice.

Under the Act, regional councils and territorial and unitary authorities are the main players in New Zealand’s system of environmental management. The role of regional councils is to coordinate and set policies for managing resources in such key areas as water and soil conservation, and transport. Additional responsibilities include drainage and pest management and control.

Territorial authorities, on the other hand, are more focussed on local service requirements, particularly water supply and control of land development. Unitary authorities have combined responsibilities for resource management and service delivery.

Responses from local authorities are compared in the survey. This is to stimulate discussion between any variance in results between similarly sized councils, identify the good practices of local authorities complying with statutory requirements, and foster benchmarking and performance improvements.

How was the questionnaire run?
Audit New Zealand again helped design the questionnaire and also played a role in analysing and presenting the results. The questionnaire was peer reviewed by a group of local authorities around the country.

The questions covered the following topics: general statistical information, research questions, time, cost, monitoring and enforcement, Maori participation in RMA processes, and good practice in resource consent processing.

At around 125 questions, the 1998/99 questionnaire was slightly longer than the previous year. The main difference was a revised cost section – asking questions about the costs of resource consents, and an extended monitoring and enforcement section.

Some results were reported in ‘family groups’ of local authorities to allow comparisons to be made between councils with similar characteristics. Territorial authorities were divided into groups based on the number of resource consents they processed.

How were the surveys audited?
A new element of this year's survey was the chance for local authorities to have key aspects of their survey response audited by Audit New Zealand. A total of 28 local authorities took up this opportunity.

Of those audited, Audit New Zealand was generally satisfied that critical data was robust and that adequate audit trails existed from data sources and records to the responses given in the survey. Feedback from the audited local authorities was positive. Audit New Zealand made useful suggestions to each of the audited local authorities on how RMA processes and data recording could be improved.

The audit gives greater credibility to the results of this year's survey. The Ministry for the Environment hopes that next year more local authorities will take up this opportunity.


© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

CPAG Report: The Further Fraying Of The Welfare Safety Net

New Zealand’s welfare system has undergone a major transformation during the past three decades. This process has seriously thwarted the original intent of the system, which was to provide a decent standard of living for all New Zealanders in times of need...

In 2017 it is not unusual for families to be living in their cars, in garages, or in substandard boarding houses. Food banks are unable to meet the soaring demands from not only beneficiaries but, increasingly, the working poor. Private charities, such as KidsCan and Variety, are overwhelmed by the demand from poor families for basic necessities. More>>



Risks & Adaptation: Cheaper To Cut Emissions Than Deal With Climate Change

The cost of climate change to New Zealand is still unknown, but a group of experts tasked with plugging the country's information gaps says it will likely be significant and it would be cheaper to cut greenhouse emissions than simply adapting to those changes. More>>


BPS HYEFU WYSIWYG: Labour's Budget Plans, Families Package

“Today we are announcing the full details of the Government’s Families Package. This is paid for by rejecting National’s tax cuts and instead targeting spending at those who need it most. It will lift 88,000 children out of poverty by 2021." More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Defence Spending, Alabama, And Dolly Parton

The spending lavished on Defence projects to meet the risks that could maybe, possibly, theoretically face New Zealand in future is breath-taking, given how successive governments have been reluctant to spend even a fraction of those amounts on the nation’s actual social needs. More>>


Members' Bills: End Of Life Choice Bill Passes First Reading

The End of Life Choice Bill in the name of David Seymour has been sent to a select committee for consideration by 76 votes to 44. It is the third time Parliament has voted on the issue in recent decades and the first time such a Bill has made it over the first hurdle. More>>


State Sector: MPI Survives Defrag Of Portfolios

The Ministry for Primary Industries will not be split under the new government, but will instead serve as an overarching body for four portfolio-based entities focused on fisheries, forestry, biosecurity and food safety. More>>





Featured InfoPages