Media release: Unitary Plan committee delegation risks legal challenge

TUESDAY 2 AUGUST
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Auckland Council’s decision last Thursday to delegate the first round of decisions relating to the recommendations of the Auckland Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel to the Auckland Development Committee is inconsistent with legal advice previously tendered, which advised Councillors of the need to keep ‘an open mind’ in relation to the Unitary Plan, and against consulting with members of the public.

Lee Short, Chairman of Democracy Action, says “The Legal and Risk team at Auckland Council have warned councillors not to engage with their constituents about the Unitary Plan, citing fairness, the need to keep an open mind, and the preservation of the integrity of the public hearings of the Independent Hearings Panel over the last two years. Despite this, the Council has chosen to ignore those considerations by handing over consideration of the Unitary Plan to the Auckland Development Committee, a body which includes two unelected members of the Independent Maori Statutory Board.”

“The Independent Maori Statutory Board fail any test of having an open mind on the Unitary Plan. It even made submissions to the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan – the very thing Councillors were advised against doing.”

“New Zealand law prevents bodies or individuals from submitting on planning issues, and then being the decision-maker on the outcome of the plan. That appears to be exactly what the Maori Statutory Board is being allowed to do.”

“The obligations on Councillors not to have pre-determined views must surely also apply to the members of the Maori Statutory Board. Otherwise, it’s one rule for the those democratically elected, and one rule for those who are appointed.”

“Participating in the Council’s decision making process, after making a formal submission on the same issues before the Panel, is highly likely to create a legal risk to the final decisions on the Plan.”

“New Zealand case law has found decision-making by local authorities should be free from bias. By compromising the final decision making process the Council is running the risk of being challenged by way of a judicial review initiated by disgruntled citizens”

“The members of Democracy Action find the Council’s hypocrisy astonishing. Our lawyers are writing to the Council’s Chief Executive, and we are seeking advice in relation to the effect an urgent judicial review would have on the Unitary Plan process.”

“If any decision should rest solely with those democratically elected, it is the Unitary Plan. To not only run roughshod over democracy, but also undermine fair process considerations shows that the Council’s decision making process on the Unitary Plan is fundamentally flawed.”

ENDS

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