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Certification Programme for RMA Decision Makers

Mon, 18 Oct 2004

'Making Good Decisions' The Training Assessment and Certification Programme for RMA Decision Makers.

This is about improving the game for all parties involved in the resource consent and plan making processes, Environment Minister Marian Hobbs said at the programme launch in Wellington.

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I am very pleased to launch 'Making Good Decisions', a programme for RMA decision makers.

This programme will build on the excellent work that is already being done by councillors and independent commissioners in making decisions under the Resource Management Act.

Importance of hearing commissioners We all know that the role of councillors in hearings is a demanding one. It involves: · a thorough understanding of RMA statutory requirements, · an understanding of the roles of decision maker and officer; · the ability to test evidence; and importantly · knowledge of how to run fair and effective hearings

Councillors and independent commissioners have to make difficult decisions that have significant impacts on their local communities.

Hence, the reason we are here today to launch the programme 'Making Good Decisions'. It's a programme that will provide guidance to all councillors and independent commissioners in this challenging and important role. The programme will also serve to strengthen the important work that they do and will go some way towards ironing out uneven and inconsistent standards and practices.

Improving consent processes and improving the RMA Of course, the 'Making Good Decisions' programme does not stand in isolation. There is one important link underlying the work we are doing in this area. This programme, as well as a wealth of other programmes, all share the same aim: Improving the implementation of the RMA.

For example, the proposed changes coming out of the RMA review will strengthen further the 'Making Good Decisions' programme by phasing in mandatory certification for the chairs and the majority of commissioners sitting on hearings' panels. Local decision making will also be further enhanced by making hearings more inquisitorial, placing more emphasis on the importance of the council hearings' process, and giving councils the ability to strike out vexatious or frivolous submissions. We want the Environment Court to have more regard to council decisions in making its own decisions, and avoid the needless repetition of evidence. This means that we have to be sure that robust decisions are made at the Council level. We want the best outcome, not just the outcome with the best argument.

In addition to this, the 'Making Good Decisions' programme builds on already available guidance on improving council resource consent processes. As you know, the Quality Planning website and the new 'Consent Processing Resource' provide useful and comprehensive, practical guidance for people involved in resource consent processing.

This is good. We would like all parts of the puzzle to fit together with the super strong glue that is the 'Making Good Decisions' scheme.

This is about improving the game for all parties involved in the resource consent and plan making processes.

Strength of the programme If we look at how things used to be, advice to councillors focused on training. This programme takes training one step further and ensures that training leads to improved knowledge. Each participant's understanding will therefore be assessed, and a certificate issued to those who achieve the specified level of competency.

This programme also recognises that even though all decisions are final, learning how to make good decisions is not. The course content and delivery of the programme will be updated to reflect changes in practice, new case law and legislative changes. This has been anticipated through update workshops and re-assessment of the competency of all 'certified' participants.

Importance of local government The true value of this programme is that it reinforces - rather than undermines - the critical role that local authorities play in environmental decision-making. Both the government and I want to see the importance of decision-making lifted at the local level.

Local authorities together with their communities set their plan policy, manage the consents process and ultimately make decisions that affect their environment.

This scheme provides local government with the tools and skills they need to make environmental decision-making even better.

Concluding Comments This launch marks the opening of registrations for the 'Making Good Decisions' programme. This programme represents the culmination of 2 years of hard work and is a milestone worthy of celebrating. I would like to thank each member of the Advisory Board and the staff at the Ministry for all their work in getting to this point. Last but not least, I would like to congratulate Auckland University and the team of experts they have assembled, in successfully winning the licence to deliver this very important programme, and I wish them well for the future.

Thank-you.

I encourage people to register for this programme.

ENDS


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