Plan decision-making 'exhausting' process

BRIDGET RAILTON
Last updated 05:00 23/06/2014

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A plan deciding the future direction of the region is inching closer to fruition but Environment Southland is at a loss on where to begin deliberations.

The Regional Policy Statement, which took four years to draft, was publicly notified in 2012. Environment Southland received 68 submissions on the statement and an additional 29 submissions came in after the original submission was released.

The problem the council faces now is finding the time to hear, deliberate and decide any changes before the plan is adopted.

At an Environmental Management Committee meeting last week, Environment Southland director of policy, planning and regulatory services Vin Smith said it would be an "exhausting" process.

The hearings were expected to take about five hours a day, three days a week, over three months, with deliberations on top of that. Preparation such as pre-reading evidence, which could be up to 400 pages long, was just as demanding, he said.

Staff recommended the hearing panel comprise a few councillors rather than the full council to address time constraints, he said.

"It's quite a substantial time commitment; that's why we've queried if all councillors can commit."

However, that idea did not sit well with all councillors.

Councillor Robert Guyton asked whether any councillors had not expressed an interest in being on the panel.

Because it was such an important document, he felt most councillors would want to be involved, and he questioned how they would make a decision to reduce the panel to a smaller group.

"Will there be a selection process, a vote?"

Cr Neville Cook said he did not have time to commit to the panel but suspected, from the interest shown by other councillors, they would need a bigger panel.

Another option considered was hiring independent commissioners to form the panel and do the process for them but this would be an added cost.

Cr Lloyd McCallum said he would support a panel of commissioners and the cost was a secondary consideration compared with the work being done.

"I'm focused on the outcome and what is the outcome at the end."

Cr Nicol Horrell said several issues still needed to be worked through.

Councillors voted to defer a decision until more was known about specific timetabling.

bridget.railton@stl.co.nz

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