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Town planners blow their own trumpet on processing resource consents

Town planners blow their own trumpet on processing resource consents

Town planners are getting a bum rap for the amount of time it takes to process resource consents, according to their professional organisation the New Zealand Planning Institute (NZPI).

NZPI chair Bryce Julyan said recent statistics collected by the Ministry for the Environment debunked the myth that planners were a hand brake on development.

The statistics showed that of the 34,000 resource consents that were processed through to a decision in 2012/13, 97% were processed on time, only 5% were notified in some way and 0.27% were declined.

And only a miniscule number of decisions were challenged, with 0.07% of resource consent decisions appealed.

"These statistics tell us that local authority planners are undertaking the processing and assessment of resource applications with both rigour and efficiency," Julyan said.

"People are generally getting decisions within the statutory time frames and, moreover, almost all applicants have had their consents approved, which suggests the information requirements are largely being met."

Julyan said speeding up consent processing would not necessarily speed up development because other factors also influenced whether owners or developers would proceed, and these usually related to the cost of construction compared with the likely returns.


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Well they Would, wouldn't they.
Point is rather, that planning as currently practised has a number of large economic externalities - mostly negative.  A sampling:

  • Injecting Time into any process, however well-intentioned, causes UOMI, time=money costs to affected parties.  This is not measured in any fashion whatsoever, so Planners are completely unaware of the damage this causes.
  • There is no notion (although a little bird whispers to me that it's Coming) of a risk-based or effects-based approach to consenting.  Point here is that many applications, for which the risk is demonstrably quite low, are subjected to the same process as all others.  It may be equitable, but efficient it certainly ain't.  Such applications should be waved through with minimal scrutiny.
  • The wider RMA argument is coming down the tracks.  The original RMA was meant to be effects-based, but the Spatial Planners have forced it down the old path, to NZ's detriment.  This old approach encourages land-banking, creates and rations unearned CG, discourages low-effect activities which aren't in the Permitted Activities Bible for the zone, and generally causes a constant, under-the-radar undertow of lost economic opportunities and CG windfalls for the fortunate few.

None of this is a useful way to run 21st century land-use and building the fact that 97% of consents are 'processed efficiently' does not pass the 'So What?' test.

These types of media releases real graunch my gears!!!  These statistics do not and cannot show the number of people or businesses who are not expanding due to the planning effect that would be placed on their business. How arrogant of the NZPI to assume that all is well when they only use a limited measure.
If the NZPI were actually serious about the issues then they would at a minimum consider the costs of obtaining Consents on applicants. They would also consider unworkable and inconsistent consent conditions, NZBORA and other Constitutional documents. Planners have no idea about the external costs placed on applicants when they request large numbers of generated reports on applicants.
I know applicants who have been seriously stressed financially, emotionally, and mentally because of the actions of Planners!!!  Some people have had to undergo Counselling due to the actions of planners and others have had serious health issues from the stress burdons placed upon them. 
I know of Councils that have the same business operations competing with private business and the Councils operations do not have the same consent conditions as the private holder! I know of Council generated internal reports that have opposed applicants and the report writer had never even visited the applicants site.
Obviously the NZPI has some concerns about proposed changes to the RMA and the affects this will have on them.

What is the target timeframe that is being met, and when does the timeframe start and end exactly?

20 working days (longer over Christmas/New Year) for a simple application for resource consent - completely separate process for consent to build.
That is 20 working days from the day they officially accept the application.
The application can be rejected before the clock starts because some part of the form is not filled in, some attachment is not included, or more likely because you haven't paid all the fees in full. It pays to watch it being accepted before your very eyes.
At any time the planner can deem that there is insufficent information in the application for them to continue at which point they "stop the clock", draft a letter in pencil to the typing pool, read the draft when it returns, get a good version typed up, scrabble around for a stamp and hope like hell they make the day's post. The clock stays stopped until they are happy with your response. There are no rules about what constitutes insufficient information.
The time ends the moment the resource consent is marked as complete (approved/rejected) not the day you get it in your hot little hand.
There must be some piss-poor planners out there if they couldn't fiddle that last 3% of applications into the official 20 working days.

Consider a year ago it was 90+ days for anything but the most basic consent, and 30-40 days for that.   

Now I'm talking solved, cleared for work to begin.

Not statistically red stamped, and re-filed in a variety of different queues for another "30 days"

And I'm taking Chch out of the equation after ...for some reason... they had to introduce some fast track regulations

This is a very disingenuous press release. Either a developer spends a lot of time informally with planners before formally lodging an application or spends a lot of time going back and forth with the clock stopped revising a proposal until it finally gets the green light.
Either way, the experience of developers is that the real time it takes to get a resource consent application through a council is counted in months and years not days.
The statutory time referred to is basically the time it takes the council to do just the admin.

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