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District plan requirements: Commission did alert West Coast of need for significant funding increases

Date: 19 March 2020

“The Local Government Commission advised the West Coast that there was a need for significant increases in the level of funding for district plans in the future, with or without its proposal for a combined West Coast district plan” Commissioner Janie Annear said today. Ms Annear was responding to reported comments that the costs of the new West Coast district plan “are likely to escalate … and have been underestimated by the Local Government Commission”.

Ms Annear cited a statement in the Commission’s draft proposal for a combined West Coast district plan, released for public consultation in April 2018, which stated “national data shows a range of costs for district plan reviews. These include a range between $0.5 million and over $3 million for reviews in small to medium rural and provincial districts.” Then in the Commission’s final proposal decision paper, Ministry for the Environment data was noted showing an increase in average plan costs from $2.5 million for first generation plans to $3.5 million for second generation plans. On top of this, new mandatory national planning standards would result in further costs for councils.

Ms Annear went on to say the Commission considered at the time, and still does today, that there would be significant savings for the West Coast in combining to develop one new modern district plan for the region. This option was preferable to the three district councils continuing to be responsible for renewing their own separate plans. In relation to the status quo option, she said the Commission had noted one council was then providing just $15,000 per annum for its district plan review or just $150,000 over the life of the council’s 10-year long-term plan.

Ms Annear emphasised that the Commission had not attempted to estimate the cost specifically for development of a new combined West Coast district plan. It did consider however, based on Commissioners’ own council experience, that the indicative cost ranges provided by the Ministry for the Environment were both accurate and realistic.

She said just one example where the combining of the three district councils’ resources, along with those of the regional council, made total sense was in the required implementation of new standards for public accessibility to district plans and associated processes, and particularly to have these online. It just did not make sense for the three councils to invest separately in the technology necessary to meet these new standards.

Ms Annear commented that the Commission fully understood concerns about what may be seen as ever-increasing costs on ratepayers to meet rising public expectations reflected in some cases through new national standards. The Commission does not have any influence over such factors. In these circumstances it can and does, however, respond by encouraging councils to share their limited resources.

 

19 March 2020

 

Penny Langley

Chief Executive Officer