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Ranges timeline begins early December

18 November 2004

Ranges timeline begins early December

Waitakere City Council has set timelines for a further round of public consultation on a package of measures for the permanent protection of the Waitakere Ranges and foothills.

Central government and local government are considering developing a special piece of legislation that deals specifically with the Waitakere Ranges. The goal is not to take away property rights under the RMA, but to write a set of guidelines that must be taken into account in this area.

Supporters of the legislation say that the area has unique characteristics in its landscapes, bush, wildlife and lifestyles that are nationally important and vulnerable. They say existing legislation and rules can control major development but they are not geared to deal with cumulative effects of lots of small impacts in the area.

The legislation would define the boundaries of the area needing specific protection, and the various values that must be preserved. Landowners would keep their existing rights under the Resource Management Act but resource consent applications will have to meet specific objectives.

However, if the proposed legislation is to be considered in the term of this Government, it will have to be lodged at the High Court in early March. Accordingly the Council has decided to try to complete speaking with the community by 4 February 2005. If, however, more consultation is needed at that time, the timelines will be extended.

“The timing is not ideal, but New Zealand no longer shuts down for a month as it once did. We have some time before Christmas and from mid January and a lot of people will be on the West Coast for their holidays in early January,” says Mayor Bob Harvey.

Mr Harvey also successfully pushed for a professional research firm to independently monitor the process, to see how well-informed the public was by the beginning of February. The results of this will help determine whether to extend the timeline.

“I want this research to be completely independent, so that nobody can accuse the Council of organising things to suit itself,” Mr Harvey says.

Communication with the community will begin with letters to people living in the Ranges and Foothills area and a special Ranges Update Newsletter, to be delivered city-wide in late November-early December. This includes a questionnaire. Both newsletter and questionnaire will be also available on line at www.waitakere.govt.nz The deadline for the questionnaire and comments is 4 February 2005.

From December through to February 2005, Council representatives will also be available to attend meetings organised by communities or groups. Detailed information will be distributed through pamphlets and on the Waitakere City website.

Community feedback will be evaluated during February. A decision on whether to support legislation will be made mid to late February.

If legislation is pursued, a Local Bill will be finalised in late February and lodged at the District Court in March for three weeks. The Bill will then be introduced to Parliament and referred to a Select Committee at which time there will be further opportunities for public submissions.

The option of legislation is supported by the Auckland Regional Council and also local MPs Hon David Cunliffe and Lynne Pillay. Rodney District Council has also been invited to be involved and is considering the invitation.

ENDS


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