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Annual survey of councils gets thumbs-up

11 July, 2000 Media Statement
TUESDAY JULY 11


Annual survey of councils gets thumbs-up


Environment Minister Marian Hobbs today released the Annual Survey of Local Authorities - an indicator of the comparative performance of local government in implementing the Resource Management Act.

Speaking at the Local Government New Zealand Conference in Christchurch, the Minister said she was generally happy with the findings.

"Local government has major responsibilities in implementing the Act, so much rests on them doing it properly. We have found that a number of councils are performing really well. Of course there are others who could be doing better," the Minister said.

“One of the values of the survey is that it highlights the good performers and encourages the sharing of best practice approaches with those who are not performing so well. It provides a means for councils to learn from one another in improving their performance in RMA implementation.”

Covering the financial year from 1998 to 1999, the fourth annual survey was based on self-reported data from all of New Zealand's 86 local authorities. The Ministry for the Environment compiled it.

The document shows that councils 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.

But only 55 percent of all publicly notified resource consents were processed within statutory time limits - a nine percent decrease from the previous year.

Elsewhere however, high percentages of local authorities are using the good practice processes outlined in the survey, and there have also been increases in the numbers of local authorities making a formal budgetary commitment to Maori participation in RMA processes.

Meanwhile, fewer numbers of resource consents were dealt with by local authorities over this period. A total of 6,500 fewer resource consents were sought than in the previous year, with 8,900 fewer processed. These decreases were particularly noticeable in the larger local authorities.

"The survey holds up a mirror to local government so they can reflect on their own performance. Councils will be able to see how they measure up against their peers, check their performance against other councils, and share information about good practice," the Minister said.

"It plays an important role in helping me and the Ministry for the Environment monitor the effect and implementation of the Act. Information from this and previous annual surveys serve as a baseline for tracking local authority practice improvements."

The Minister said she was pleased to see that 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 with some consent conditions changed.

“This suggests that local authority decisions on resource consents are generally of a high standard, with the initial decisions being confirmed by the Environment Court,” she said.

The Minister said an important new feature of the survey was the opportunity 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 and she hoped more would do so in the future.

"The audit process makes a major contribution to the independence and credibility of the survey and the feedback we've received from the audited councils has been positive," the Minister concluded.

ends

For further information, contact
Ray Salter
Ministry for the Environment
Tel: 917-7400 Fax: 917-7523


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