Councils threatened with administration over RMA woes

Last updated 17:16 16/06/2009

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Eight councils, including Auckland City and Environment Canterbury, have been warned an administrator could be sent in to run them if they do not improve their resource consent times.

Environment Minister Nick Smith told Parliament today that while he was "reluctant" to use his powers under the Resource Management Act (RMA), councils that failed to meet deadlines more often than they met them had to get their acts together.

Dr Smith said he had written to eight councils pointing out that he had powers under the RMA to send in an administrator to run them if they could not obey the law.

He singled out Environment Canterbury saying it was "hopeless' at processing all types of consents.

While it had difficult issues to deal with over water usage, it also failed in other resource consents.

Dr Smith told MPs that he was "reluctant" to use his powers, but councils had to show him they had a plan to improve their performance within 60 days.

The councils written to were:

* Whakatane District Council;

* Auckland City Council;

* Carterton District Council;

* Waimate District Council;

* Far North District Council;

* Manukau City Council;

* Westland District Council; and

* Environment Canterbury.

Dr Smith said the delays cost millions of dollars and he wanted improvements.

Too many councils were automatically granting themselves extensions to deadlines and he wanted this power limited.

Dr Smith said he had written to the councils last week following the release of the two-yearly report on local authorities' administration of the RMA

"This report tells a sorry story of delay, frustration and unnecessary costs for more than 16,000 homeowners, businesses and farmers whose consents last year were not processed within the legal timeframe," Dr Smith said.

"This problem has been ignored and got progressively worse over the past decade increasing from 18 per cent to 31 per cent, despite a nine-fold increase from 3 per cent to 27 per cent in consents where councils granted themselves a 20-day extension."

A select committee is considering a bill amending the RMA which Dr Smith said would simplify consent processes and give councils incentives to process applications faster.

In a table provided showing different councils performances, Environment Canterbury processed only 29 per cent of resource consent applications on time in 2007-08 – down from 72 per cent in 2005-06.


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