At its February meeting, the HDC’s Development & Environment Committee approved creation of a Resource Consent Advisory Group whose purpose is to: “assist the Council in making improvements and changes to its resource consent processing procedures.”
In addition: “The Advisory Group is not intended to advise the council strategic decision-making process or comment on specific decisions. There may be occasions however where the views of the Advisory Group may be sought for a particular strategic direction.”
Now, I’m all for clarifying and streamlining consent procedures where a persuasive and balanced case can be made for improvements.
[Indeed, I’ll declare an interest and note that I’ve been supporting a neighbor who needs a minor adjustment to our common property boundary so he can provide full title to a small block for his son. With no dispute involved, the son’s consent application has dragged out for a year or so … so far. More time than it took the HDC to award itself a consent to build a grandstand.]
But in giving certain allied interests an inside track — via a formal advisory group status — to recommend process changes, the key issue is balance. Without balance in membership, can we really expect balance in recommendations?
As established, the new Advisory Group would include only representatives from:
- Hawke’s Bay Surveyors Institute
- Consultants from the Hawke’s Bay Planners Group
- Institute of Professional Engineers
- Developer representatives
Does that membership sound balanced to you?!
After all, the resource consent process is not intended only to accelerate development and make life easy for developers (although that might change, once National gets through “reforming” the RMA!). It also has the purpose of placing scrutiny — and perhaps a needed brake — on development that might be undesirable for a host of reasons … environmental considerations as just one example. And these other considerations become even more important when the Advisory Group moves beyond “improving consent processes” to advising on “particular strategic direction.”
How do these other interests get formally represented in the HDC advisory scheme? They’re already out-gunned as it is. If HDC is going to be changing the rules of the game, all players need to be involved in the process, helping to shape the “improvements” as they are being considered. Not just “consulted” separately and after the fact.
HDC needs to re-consider what it’s doing here, and make provision for broader representation on the Advisory Group.