On Friday 22 July we reach a significant milestone in the Auckland Unitary Plan process, when the Independent Hearings Panel presents Auckland Council with its recommendations for the unitary plan.
What does that mean? Here are the key things you need to know.
What is the Independent Hearings Panel?
It’s a panel of independent planning experts set up by central government under special legislation.
It is chaired by an Environment Court judge and it is independent of Auckland Council.
So, what does it do?
The panel’s job is to hold hearings and review submissions and evidence on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan and make recommendations to Auckland Council about any changes the panel thinks should be made to the plan.
The panel has been working on this for almost two years. In fact, hearings starting in September 2014 and finished in May 2016.
What are the panel’s recommendations?
They are the changes the panel considers should be made to the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan. The recommendations will take into account all of the submissions, evidence and hearings held before the panel.
Over the past two years, the panel has reviewed more than 13,000 submissions, received 10,000 pieces of evidence and held 249 days of hearings.
Ok, but what do they say?
We don’t know yet. Until the council receives the panel’s report on 22 July it does not know what will be recommended.
Does this mean the Auckland Unitary Plan is decided?
No, at this stage we only have the Independent Hearings Panel’s recommendations on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan, which actually hold no legal weight. The council has to decide to either accept or reject the recommendations.
When will it do that?
Auckland Council will make its decisions on the panel’s recommendations from 10 to 18 August 2016 in meetings open to the public. It is required by law to publicly notify all of its decisions by 19 August.
How will councillors decide the unitary plan?
The council’s decisions must be based on the panel’s final reports, recommendations and their reasons for making recommendations. Councillors will decide to either accept or reject each recommendation made by the Independent Hearings Panel.
What will I get to see?
The public can view all of the panel’s information on the Auckland Council website from the afternoon of the 27 July.
Also, decisions and the decision-making process on the Auckland Unitary Plan will be fully transparent with the council’s decisions being made in meetings open to the public.
These meetings will also be available for viewing on the Council's live streaming service.