Many in dark about district plan

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The Gore District Council is hoping to increase residents’ knowledge of the district plan as it continues its review process that started in April.

After the local body elections residents will be invited to give their feedback about the plan.

The recent residents’ survey found that 11% of respondents had never heard of the plan, 39% had heard of it but knew nothing about it, 43% knew a little bit about it, 6% had detailed knowledge of sections that interested or affected them and 1% had detailed knowledge of the whole plan.

Councils are required to produce a plan which is the framework for managing land use and development in the district under the 1991 Resource Management Act.

It contains policies and rules to do with resource management issues such as the effects of land use and subdivision, noise and traffic.

The rules of the plan set out what activities residents can do as of right (permitted activities) and what activities a resource consent was needed for.

Council regulatory and planning general manager Ian Davidson-Watts said the low percentage of people who knew either about sections of the plan that affected them or had detailed knowledge of the whole plan were likely people who had applied for a building consent or a resource consent.

“For a lot of people the district plan doesn’t come into their life, but actually it’s an important document that governs how the whole place looks and feels,” Dr Davidson-Watts said.

He hoped by the time the review process was finished the residents survey would show people were more informed about the district plan and they could have input into their environment.

“It would be good if half the residents were engaged in the discussion around the district plan and how their environment ends up looking like in terms of the rules and framework.”

opportunity for all residents to have a say about the district.

“It’s their environment and this document is there to maintain and enhance it.”

At the moment council staff were researching which topics needed to be covered by the plan. There were 80 on the list including heritage buildings, protection of indigenous flora and fauna and subdivision rules.

Workshops would be held to informally find out what people’s opinions were.

“We call that engagement rather than consultation.

“We think that is a much better way of operating because we want to get rid of any argy-bargy stuff as soon as possible, or resolve it, or explain things.”

After the workshops, submissions would be called for on the different topics, and hearings held.

The district plan is different from the regional council plan which covers rural activities and air and water quality.

A Local Government New Zealand spokesman said district plans were a tool by which citizens could shape future development in their district.

“They are subject to widespread consultation with the community, as well as appeal through the Environment Court, giving citizens a wide range of options for changing the provisions within it,” the spokesman said.