District plan costs escalate

Mackenzie District Council's district plan could cost it more than $700,000 over the next five years.

The council is legally required to review the plan, which sets down the overall rules for development across the district.

Planning manager Nathan Hole told councillors the cost would depend on information requirements, level of submissions and extent of consultation, but latest estimates suggested it would cost about $420,000 over the next five years, not including staff time.

"I appreciate that this is more than what we originally estimated, but I have had a broader look at what is required," he said.

Mr Hole said the scope of the plan meant employing an extra staff member to drive the process. He suggested the person's annual salary could be $70,000 for each year of a four-year period.

The councillors provisionally agreed to his request, but deputy mayor Graham Smith said it would keep an eye on the costs.

"We need to keep it cheaper than what it would cost to outsource it," Mr Smith said.

Mr Hole said the work involved compiling a list of significant natural areas, commissioning an ecological landscape study, and consulting with the public and interest groups before developing the plan.

Cr Evan Williams said he thought the council had already done a study of the district's significant natural areas, but Mr Hole replied it had never been completed.

"I've looked at what the Waimate and Waitaki district councils have gone through, and it's going to be a pretty extensive process," Mr Hole said.

The council had outsourced its work for previous plan changes.

"This has the advantage of ensuring a high quality technical product and the benefit of access to teams of specialist planning expertise.

"However, it is likely there would be less council ownership and it is also likely to be more costly," he said.

Although the council has to produce a new district-wide plan, it had already completed some site-specific plans.

Plan Change 15, which regulates development in the Twizel township, became operative last year.

Plan Change 13, which set the rules for development in the Mackenzie basin, is still tangled up in court.

However, Environment Court judge Jon Jackson's interim judgment declared the basin an outstanding natural landscape.

The Timaru Herald