25 Jun 2013

Revolt over Unitary Plan secrecy

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Written by: Bernard Orsman
Published: The New Zealand Herald – 25 June 2013

Councillor slams development process as appalling and local boards demand access to public submissions.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown is facing more grief over the Unitary Plan process with one councillor vowing to boycott secret meetings and local boards demanding access to public submissions.

Chris Fletcher said the process was appalling and was boycotting secret workshops – starting with one tomorrow on height limits – until she received full disclosure of the 22,700 public submissions on the controversial plan.

This followed revelations in the Herald that last week’s first workshop on height limits and volcanic viewshafts contained feedback from the Property Council, Fletcher Development and Tramlease, but no counter view from the Volcanic Cones Society or community groups.

“The process has been off the rails for a long time and created huge distrust from the public. I have never come across such a dodgy process in my political career,” said Mrs Fletcher, a former Auckland City mayor and National MP.

Mr Brown did not return calls and his chief spin doctor, Dan Lambert, said he was not available to talk to the Herald.

Other politicians were happy to vent their anger at the process, including Mike Lee, who said politicians should not be making decisions at secret workshops before they had seen feedback on the draft Unitary Plan.

“We need to take the time to treat the submissions with respect otherwise it’s a hollow exercise.”

North Shore councillor George Wood said local boards were demanding to see submissions from their local areas but the council was dragging its heels.

Orakei Local Board chairwoman Desley Simpson said the board wanted access to submissions by suburb, not just brief summaries “that don’t give us a snapshot of how our communities have voiced their concerns”.

Secrecy has been a feature of the Unitary Plan. The council has also set up a political working party which discusses a lot of the detail behind closed doors before making recommendations to the Auckland Plan committee where issues are discussed in public. Records show the committee normally rubber-stamps the work of the political working party.

Mr Brown has refused to release background papers used by the political working party to develop rules for heritage and the mixed housing and terrace housing and apartment zones. Chief executive Doug McKay has instructed lawyer Wendy Brandon to keep the work on heritage rules hidden.

Behind closed doors

*Political workshops – discuss much of the plan behind closed doors.
*Political working party – politicians who draw up recommendations behind closed doors.
*Auckland Plan committee – council committee that approves recommendations in open.
*Mayor Len Brown and chief executive Doug McKay – hiding secret documents of political working party.

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