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Former Coast Council Chair Accused Of Being ‘a Hypocrite’

Former West Coast Regional Council chairman Allan Birchfield has been accused of being "a hypocrite" over his opposition to the combined district plan for the region.

Birchfield co-signed a 2019 Order in Council mandating the Local Government Commission's recommendation the region's three district plans be combined into one regional plan.

That included the regional council being shouldered with the cost of the combined plan - Te Tai o Poutini Plan (TTPP) - after the Government put up a token $250,000 to formulate it.

At the time, the TTPP was posited as a 'blueprint' for fewer district plans under the previous Government's Resource Management Act reforms.

West Coast Regional Council chairman Peter Haddock.

On Tuesday, the former chairman crossed swords with Cr Frank Dooley and his successor Cr Peter Haddock.

It came after Cr Dooley questioned how the new Government's policy changes could be incorporated into the TTPP, now at the formal hearing stage.

During the debate Cr Birchfield said his views on the TTPP had been "pretty well advertised".

"I think it's going to be obsolete. I think there should be a bit of leadership by West Coast leaders to shut the thing down until we know what the new rules are going to be," he said.

Cr Haddock said for Cr Birchfield to say that "is an absolute nonsense".

Westport representative Frank Dooley.
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"You must remember he was part of the team that formulated the plan. He had the opportunity years ago … The plan is there, it is going through a hearing process," Cr Haddock said.

Cr Birchfield stuck to his guns.

"I think this plan is a terrible imposition on the West Coast. It's not very democratic: we now have appointed commissioners making decisions for us. The whole thing should be put to rest until we see where the law is going."

Cr Frank Dooley had already called for greater transparency from the two council appointed TTPP committee members, characterising it as "a secret society".

"I think Cr Birchfield is a hyprocrite because he signed the order in council," Cr Dooley said.

"You can't come along here and make comments when you are criticising yourself for past commitments," he said.

Iwi representative Francois Tumahai said he understood Allan's frustration: "However, we are in a process, and we've got to get out the other end."

Cr Birchfield was on the TTPP Committee from its foundation until he was removed as chairman in April 2023 amid accusations of dysfunction under his leadership.

Appointed TTPP chair Rex Williams said limited policy change information was currently "coming directly" from the Government at present.

Former West Coast Regional Council chairman Allan Birchfield who maintains the Te Tai o Poutini Plan should be scrapped.

The statutory requirements overarching the TTPP were "as they stand at the moment," he said.

Council chief executive Darryl Lew said the regional council did not have "any direct governance" over it, despite having appointed members.

However Cr Dooley said council's appointees should seek councillor views, and feed it back to them.

Cr Ewen agreed, saying that "short of clairvoyance" it was hard to know at times what was going on.

Cr Haddock said there was no going back with the TTPP.

"This is the plan for the West Coast. The current (district) plans area out of date. I understand Cr Birchfield's concerns but we have to carry on. If we wipe the thing out, all the councils will be up to review their (existing) plans."

Cr Dooley said in making his criticism, he did not believe "we should abandon the one district plan".

"I am questioning the statements coming out of Wellington, how they are fed into the TTPP process, and the feedback from the formal representation of this council."

Mr Williams said the TTPP Committee was "appointed by" but did not represent their individual organisations.

"That is a very important distinction."

Mr Lew said in the 30-year history of the RMA, councils always grappled with the "various guises" of central government formulating new policy.

It meant councils had "to be agile".

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