Proposed reforms concern council

‘‘Power once again is taken from local communities’’ as a result of another incoming government reform, a Gore district councillor says.

At a council meeting last month, councillors signed off on a submission to Parliament’s environment select committee on the Natural and Built Environment Bill and the Spatial Planning Bill.

The two pieces of legislation are among three intended to replace the Resource Management Act, which at present sets the rules and requirements for councils to issue resource consents.

Cr Glenys Dickson, who was on the working group that prepared the council’s submission, said parts of the new legislation were not well thought out.

Those included ‘‘the exclusion of the local voice in particular, because there seems to be a centralisation of control here’’.

‘‘People on the select committee are all list members. None of them are actually [elected] MPs, so do they understand that local input is is very important in this process?’’

Mayor Ben Bell said it was another burden for local councils.

‘‘It seems like there is a trend with these reforms that are coming down that the process isn’t being well thought of.

‘‘I know the same sits with Three Waters and [the] future for local government.’’

In its submission, the council said it supported the need for resource management law reform, however it had issues with the proposed legislation.

At times, it was vague, inconsistent and even contradictory.

Key terms in the legislation, including ‘‘Maori concept[s]’’, lacked clear definitions.

‘‘There is concern that this legislation will actually just add more bureaucracy rather than remove it,’’ the council said.

‘‘In the council’s view, there are some key deficiencies and muddled thinking evidenced by the structure and organisation . . . which significantly detract from the quest for certainty and simplicity.’’

There was also a lack of transparency around appointments to an independent hearings panel and there were unreasonable expectations for those wanting to submit on proposed plans.

The legislation would limit the ability for people to appeal some decisions, though this was something the council supported.

Last year, the council’s bid to build a bridge across the Mataura River was appealed and subsequently blocked by the Environment Court.

The council has requested to speak on its submission.