Unitary Plan Errors
By Iain McManus
Auckland Council officers have for the first time set out a programme for addressing errors within the Auckland Unitary Plan.
The Unitary Plan was a massive achievement for the Council and the Independent Hearings Panel – the most substantial and significant plan review ever undertaken in New Zealand, and completed through to the Council decision stage in significantly less time than any previous large plan review.
However, with haste comes the potential for error, and more than 8000 potential errors have since been identified by Council and others. These range from the very minor (e.g. spelling mistakes) to the more substantial (e.g. incorrect zoning applied to sites).
Ability to Correct Errors
The Council has two options for dealing with errors:
1. Initiate a publicly notified plan change to correct an error; or
2. Correct a “minor” error, without a plan change, under Schedule 1, Clause 20A of the RMA.
As there is no right of submission on a Clause 20A process, the Council needs to exercise its discretion under Clause 20A very carefully.
Categorisation of Errors
Council officers have been working through the alleged errors, to determine how they should be dealt with. As a result of that work, the errors are being allocated to one of the following categories:
1. Errors that can be corrected through a Clause 20A process.
2. Errors, anomalies and technical matters that are beyond the scope of Clause 20A but should be corrected to provide for the proper administration of the Unitary Plan. These matters will be addressed through an “administrative” plan change.
3. Matters that are more complex and require further investigation. These may be addressed through a further plan change.
4. Matters that should be monitored before any further action is taken, as they may not warrant the cost of a plan change.
5. Matters that require no further action as the alleged error is not in fact an error.
The Council expects to complete this assessment by the end of April and to advise all parties who identified an error of the outcome of the Council’s review by the end of May.
The Council proposes to issue its first tranche of Clause 20A corrections in May, and to work through the remainder of the corrections via a series of “coordinated tranches” released every two months.
First Administrative Plan Change
The Council proposes to address the following types of matters in its first administrative plan change:
1. Corrections where the Independent Hearings Panel recommendations have not been carried forward into the Unitary Plan.
2. Corrections to reflect agreements reached between a submitter and the Council through mediation where the Panel accepted the agreements and recommended they be implemented but this is not reflected in the plan.
3. Corrections to the schedules where there is clear discrepancy between Council’s closing statement evidence and the plan and the matter has been agreed between the parties and/or is silent in terms of the Panel’s recommendations.
4. Corrections where an overlay, precinct, zone or control has clearly been applied to the wrong land / coastal marine area.
5. Amendments to the provisions to correct information where it does not change the policy or intent of the provision.
6. Updating the GIS viewer for land recently vested as open space, roads and other types of reserve e.g. utility reserves.
The Council expects to notify this plan change some time in August 2017 and to proceed to a hearing in October/November 2017.
Errors within the Notable Trees Schedule
The Council’s work to date has identified a high number of errors within the Notable Trees Schedule including mapping issues (e.g. trees mapped in the wrong location), incorrect information in the schedule (e.g. incorrect address or legal description, incorrect number of trees identified) and trees omitted from the schedule or included by mistake.
As a consequence, the Council is proposing to undertake a comprehensive review of the Notable Trees Schedule, and to address these errors through a separate plan change process. This plan change is expected to be notified mid-2018.
As-Yet Unreported Errors
The Council is proposing a “cut-off date” of Thursday 13 April 2017 for identification of errors for inclusion in the above processes. Any errors identified after this date will be addressed by way of a separate process at a later date.
If you are aware of any errors within the plan, and would like Council to investigate them, we recommend that you identify those to Council before 13 April. We would be happy to help you to do that.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding this blog.