Councils count cost of gathering data

IAIN SCOTT
Last updated 09:00 14/06/2014

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District councils are assessing the costs of a requirement to provide the Government with more detailed information on resource consents, with one questioning the benefit to ratepayers.

The Ministry for the Environment is developing a national monitoring system for the Resource Management Act, as there is no single framework to measure how the Act is implemented.

Previously, councils submitted varying levels of information to the minister every second year.

Councils say the new requirements call for more detailed and extensive information than previously.

Tararua District Council planning manager Craig Lunn said there would be more overhead costs on districts for administrative resourcing, as well as at the ministry.

Council chief executive Blair King said it was an example of cost shifting, where consent applicants or ratepayers pay for the increased reporting.

"For a rural district council with an already strained budget, it leaves the questions of what benefit this is to our ratepayers and at the expense of what other council services."

Rangitikei District Council chief executive Ross McNeil said he supported the principle behind King's comments.

"I think, looking at the nature of the information requests, there will be additional costs to gather and provide that information, but the extent of that will vary from council to council.

"Some of that will obviously be a function of the level of resource consent activity in each council, and I guess by inference, the greater the number of consents, the more significant the administrative burden and its associated costs will be."

However, Rangitikei received an average of only about five or six consent applications a month.

"From our perspective, yes, the additional requirements do have an administrative cost, but the scale of those for us won't be as high as other councils who have greater levels of consent activity. We can provide the additional information, but it's not a significant additional resourcing requirement at this stage."

Horowhenua environment services manager Tony Thomas said the council was still assessing what additional work was needed to meet the reporting requirements.

"I'm not quite sure what it exactly means yet, but . . . we've got a lot more technology which enables more sophisticated reporting, and we'll be looking to see whether we can bring that to bear."

He said the ability of a council to meet the requirements was a function of its technology and reporting systems.

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- Manawatu Standard

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