Hayes critical of poor consultation

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Waikato district councillor Wally Hayes of Tamahere has slammed the lack of public consultation afforded major development strategies for land south of Hamilton city.

Hayes, who represents the Tamahere Ward, raised his concerns last week in voicing lone opposition to his council’s submission on the second phase of the Government’s proposed reform of the Resource Management Act (RMA), reported the Waikato Times.

Hayes initially took issue with a view in the council submission that RMA appeal rights should in future be limited to points of law.

“That might be okay as long as a robust public process had taken place in the first instance and plans were evidenced-based,” he said.

But the practical experience of strategic planning for future land use and infrastructure in the “southern sector” – an area to the south of Hamilton, between Ruakura in the north, Mystery Creek Gully in the south, Matangi in the east and to the east of Temple View – showed that was simply not the case.

This area is experiencing significant demand, and in July consultants Beca prepared a “Southern Sector Study” for a joint growth strategy developed by Hamilton City Council, Environment Waikato, and Waipa and Waikato district councils.

But Mr Hayes said it was alarming that a non-statutory, non-binding long-term planning document that had never been taken through a formal consultative or public submissions process now appeared to be having undue influence on major council decisions and could even form part of Environment Waikato’s regional policy statement.

While he could put up with limiting appeal rights if the public had genuine input, that had not happened for residents in his ward under the southern sector study.

“The southern sector study should never be able to happen again,” he said. “The residents’ views and vision were never seen or heard. And yet now we have a plan already being used in an RMA hearing.”

Mr Hayes’ comments at this week’s council meeting were met with a wall of silence by fellow councillors. But he said he was at least heartened by earlier councillor comments at committee level that there was a case to re-address what was happening with the southern sector study.

Aspects of southern sector development include prioritising the Peacocke suburb as a residential growth area for about 20,000 people, having town centre boundaries defined by urban limits, protecting the airport as an essential regional infrastructure asset and examining urban design approaches to area development.

Meanwhile, the “southern links” investigation, an important component of the southern sector study, is in the process of designating routes for a major roading project for the sub-region.

Under this project NZ Transport Agency and Hamilton City Council are identifying and protecting some 32km of a future transport network – including two new crossings of the Waikato River – and 21km of state highway south of the city.

Route options are expected to be ready for public review in March-April, after which final preferred routes will be presented late next year.

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