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Councils to receive help to speed up RMA processes

4 February 2007

Councils to receive help to speed up RMA processes

Councils are to receive assistance to improve their consent processing performance by focusing on best practice, Environment Minister Trevor Mallard said today.

A review of a number of councils that were not processing Resource Management Act (RMA) applications within a suitable time frame showed that poor quality applications, some internal procedural issues and staffing shortages were the main factors causing delays.

"Some councils have already taken advantage of the Targeted Assistance Programme provided by the Ministry for the Environment. By working with staff and analysing and reviewing data, this programme reviews the current resource consent process and recommends ways of improving performance and practice," Environment Minister Trevor Mallard said.

"The Making Good Decisions programme is another tool available for councils to improve their practice for hearings. This provides the accreditation required for chairs and panel members of any resource consent, plan change and designation hearings."

Since January 2005 this programme has accredited 932 individuals and provided update seminars to 570 of those already accredited.

"Various RMA forums, and a website (www.qualityplanning.org.nz/) which provides best practice guidance on consent processing, monitoring, enforcement, plan development and plan topics are among other initiatives the Ministry for the Environment will use to assist councils to improve their performance.

"All councils reviewed will be asked to report back to the ministry on their performance in the next six months," Trevor Mallard said.

The Ministry for the Environment initially reviewed consent processing in a representative sample of five local authorities – Taupo District Council, Manukau City Council, Waimakariri District Council, Kaipara District Council and Franklin District Council - to get an idea of general practices. The ministry then reviewed Auckland City Council, Tauranga City Council, Grey District Council, Timaru District Council, Westland District Council and Kaikoura District Council which processed less than their sixty per cent of applications on time.

Trevor Mallard says the review was worthwhile.

"The ministry needed to research the challenges facing councils in meeting the statutory timeframes. Some councils achieved 100 per cent processing on time, and that is the target for all councils to aim for."

"Several councils reported 'lost time' obtaining and coordinating the outputs from different software systems across the council. Those problems may be no worse than typically found in large organisations, but there is some scope for time saving if these systems were improved.

The reports can be viewed at http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/rma/review-consent-processing-performance-round-one-jan08/index.html

ENDS

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