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Benson-Pope: Speech to Landscape Architects

2 May 2005

Hon David Benson-Pope: Speech to the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects - Looking Forward to Heritage Landscapes

Archway Lecture Theatres, University of Otago, Dunedin9.00-9.15am

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Tena koutou katoa e nga rau rangatira ma, nau mai haere mai ki tenei wa kei raro i te korowai o Kai Tahu.

Welcome to you all the many leaders, welcome to this place under the cloak of Kai Tahu.

It is my pleasure to be in my home city and able to speak to this conference in this historic precinct of New Zealand's oldest university, on a topic I am passionate about.

I have had a long standing involvement in heritage issues as councillor of Dunedin City Council between 1986 and 2000.

I was the chair of the Dunedin City Council Planning and Environment Committee and also Chair of the Dunedin Heritage Fund. And as the Associate Minister for the Environment I am presently taking a package of improvements Resource Management Act through parliament.

Dunedin's heritage
Dunedin is a fantastic city and is fortunate in having a rich heritage landscape made up of its streets, alleyways, open spaces, buildings, hills, peninsula and coastline.

Its urban form, streetscape and town belt should I believe be considered as a heritage Landscape in its own right.

As you will know, the existing street pattern was designed by Charles Kettle in 1847 with a brief to create an Edinburgh of the south.
Some of the more quirky heritage elements that make up the Kettle designed streetscape of Dunedin are the frequent straight street lines, which while pretty on paper, totally ignored the near-vertical slopes of Dunedin's hills and many of the past swamp areas, and created serious grief in respect of paper roads-mostly in my electorate!

As a member of the Dunedin City Council I was pleased to be involved in a variety of upgrades and improvements of Kettle's heritage streetscapes.

These included the Octagon (I retain the mad letters!) and George Street improvements which while done several years ago have been successful and would appear to have set a national trend in upgrading many of our heritage main streets throughout New Zealand. But the work extended too to some of the less affluent parts of our town and is no less appreciated by residents.

Part of the reason for the survival of Dunedin's rich heritage is the lack of extreme development pressures that you find in Auckland.

Dunedin is very successful in re-using its heritage buildings in different and diverse ways. The purchase of the historic and unique Dunedin Railway Station was one experience I enjoyed being involved in.

Today this heritage railway station and surrounding landscape are being used for rail and community activities such as the Saturday market and recent Vodafone id Fashion Week.

There can't be many places in the world where a Railway Station holds a fashion event that has an audience of over 1500 people who are captivated by the incredible talent parading up and down a 100-metre catwalk that runs the length of the railway station platform.

Here in Dunedin our heritage is part of making us a successful city enhancing the liveability and promoting economic growth in areas of tourism and southward migration of tired Aucklanders.

2003 RMA changes and heritage
As you may know changes to the RMA enacted in 2003 elaborated the protection of historic heritage from inappropriate subdivision, use and development to a section 6 matter of national importance in the RMA.

The definition of historic heritage was changed. It now includes the natural and physical resources that contribute to an understanding and appreciation of New Zealand's history and cultures.

This includes historic sites, structures, places and areas, as well as archaeological sites, sites of significance to Maori and surroundings associated with the natural and physical resources. In other words, heritage landscapes.

Councils must now look more widely at what heritage and heritage landscapes are and how they are managed. It is for this reason that the government funded through the Ministry for the Environment's Sustainable Management Fund the New Zealand Historic Places Trust 'Heritage Management Guidelines for Resource Management Practitioners".

These guidelines provide advice, information and best practice examples on matters such as preparing plans and polices through to processing resource consents that have effects on historic heritage including archaeological sites.

Due to the 2003 RMA changes, many councils are presently reviewing and developing new policies and protection mechanisms for their heritage.

Dunedin City Council is presently preparing its Heritage Strategy. Later in the year it will be undertaking consultation on the Heritage Strategy. This is your opportunity for getting involved with local councils in the development of a new and exciting era in heritage protection in New Zealand.

Proposed RMA amendments
The 2003 changes are being further refined with the present Resource Management and Electricity Legislation Amendment Bill. The Bill is currently before the Local Government and Environment Select Committee, which is due to report back to Parliament in mid-June.

Over 300 submissions have been received including one from the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects. These are all being taken into consideration by the select committee.

The proposed package of RMA improvements are all about fine tuning. It's about finding practical solutions to issues identified over a 18 month consultation period. In general the package of improvements proposes five key initiatives.

The first set of initiatives aims to improve the expression of matters of national interest under the RMA.

There will be greater use of national policy statements and national environmental standards to give better national direction and improve consistency across local government.

A decision on a National Policy Statement on biodiversity is imminent. The Government will be continuing to push the boundaries in the area of national policy statements with consideration being given to areas of national importance including landscape and heritage.

The second set of initiatives aims to help improve decision making at the council level. It will be mandatory for chairpersons of council hearing panels to be trained and certified.

The 'Making Good Decisions' Programme is all about improving the process and decision making of Council hearings and this is the method by which chairpersons will be accredited.

I am aware that a number of landscape architects and heritage professionals have attended this programme and I look forward to your ongoing involvement in this area.
The reform bill proposes the Environment Court would become a court of appeal for decisions made at these improved council hearings.

I am open to the idea of the Environment Court having a greater role, but decisions already made by local councils must be given weight with a rehearing to focus on matters in contention rather then starting again.

The Court will have inquisitorial powers, with the ability to order independent expert reports and to define issues for resolution at an early stage.

The third set of initiatives aims to improve local policy and plan making. The role of regional policy statements will be strengthened and regional and district plans will have to 'give effect to' these regional policy statements.

There will be greater certainty regarding when iwi authorities should be consulted, which iwi authorities should be consulted and how and what the process and scope of the consultation should be.

The Bill refocuses consultation with iwi at the plan preparation stage. It clarifies the circumstances where applicants and local authorities have a duty to consult iwi authorities for resource consent applications and develops registries identifying iwi, their tribal boundaries and key contact details.

The fourth set of initiatives makes natural resource allocation an explicit responsibility of regional councils. The Minister for the Environment will be able to direct a regional council to prepare regional plans dealing with specific issues where gaps are identified.

The fifth set of initiatives aims to build capacity and improving practice. Legislative change is just one part in a package of measures reflecting a stronger leadership role for Government.

The Ministry for the Environment is taking a stronger leadership role to assist local government to develop knowledge and strengthen practice. This includes enhancing the Ministry's targeted one-on-one assistance with specific councils and the continuation and enhancement of their best practice programme.

Response to some concerns raised
I am concerned that the response of some groups to the proposals have misjudged the intent of the bill. We are not watering down the RMA's ability to protect the environment and heritage.

That is why there are powers to require councils to perform, where now they may have no plans or do not properly enforce environmental protection. In addition changes in the reform bill give a lot more support to local councils, as well as providing tools to make poorly performing councils lift their game.

It is about strong environmental protection and supporting local decision-making, while removing unnecessary costs for the participants of consent processes.
Urban Design Protocol and the Year of the Built Environment
The Government is also well aware that the RMA is not the be-all and end-all for heritage management.

The government is also working in other ways to assist in the conservation and enhancement of New Zealand's heritage. In the Government's 2003 budget the National Heritage Preservation Incentive Fund was created.

This fund is being administered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and provides financial incentives to encourage the conservation of nationally significant heritage places registered by the Trust in private ownership.

This funding is presently repairing the 1910s Dispatch Foundry in Greymouth which was damaged in the recent tornado.

As you will be aware the Government has announced 2005 is the Year of the Built Environment.

This conference is an important event on the year's calendar. The Year's aim is to raise awareness of the impact that the built environment has on our quality of life.

The year provides us with the opportunities to explore and celebrate the buildings, places and spaces in which we all live, work and play.

The first key event of the Year of the Built Environment 2005 was the launch of the New Zealand Urban Design Protocol by Prince Charles in March.

The Protocol aims to make New Zealand towns and cities more successful through quality urban design. The Urban Design Protocol identifies seven urban design qualities that are based on sound urban design principles that can be adapted for uses in towns in cities through out New Zealand. Commonly know as seven C's.

The key C for heritage is Character. Quality urban design protects and manages our heritage buildings, places and landscapes. Two leading signatories of the protocol are The New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects and New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

Conclusion

The Government through the actions outlined in this speech is committed to heritage and heritage landscapes. We have to be proactive about heritage landscapes so that everyone is involved in vision, process and implemented outcomes. However the hard work and delivery will remain with you as the practitioners and experts in the field.
There are large areas of opportunity including heritage strategies and reviews of District Plans, combined with commitment to policies such as the Urban Design Protocol.

I look forward in working with you in this field and finding new solutions to our ongoing heritage challenges.

ENDS


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