RMLA Regional News : June 2015

Auckland – Kitt Littlejohn

Greetings all

It is with some degree of embarrassment that I see that our Committee has not contributed to regional RMLA news since October last year! My sincere apologies. Since then we have organised:

  • Auckland Branch Christmas Function – another successful quiz night at Atticus Bar.
  • Summer Drinks for members – gratefully hosted at Russell McVeagh on 19 February.
  • A joint seminar with Auckland Council on RMA consent processing and Commissioner Hearings (on 26 March).
  • A presentation by Campbell Barbour (again at Russell McVeagh) entitled “The Challenges of Transformative Development (a north-west case study)” (on 4 June).

Our Young RMLA subcommittee has a function scheduled for 24 June (RMA 101 – stand-by for details), and our main committee are soon to schedule further events for members for the rest of the year.

In other news, after 9 years on the Auckland Committee I have finally, many would no doubt say, decided to take a break from RMLA.  I have greatly enjoyed my time on the Auckland Committee and will miss everyone very much.  Many thanks for your support over the past years.

Taranaki – Cam Twigley

The Taranaki committee have been busy putting together a submission on behalf of our members on New Plymouth District Council’s ‘Shaping our Future Together Blueprint’.  The Blueprint is a 30 year big picture plan for the planning of the district.  We are also looking forward to the release of the road shows for 2015 and bringing some of these to Taranaki.

Waikato – Joan Forret

The Waikato Branch has hosted 2 events in 2015 and now has the “High Court Case Law update” Road Show confirmed for 16 th July.

In March we had a locally sourced breakfast seminar to review the process changes that have taken effect as a result of the RMA Amendment Act 2013. Those changes affect a number of provisions inthe RMA including the assessment of environmental effects as required by the Fourth Schedule and processing time frames. The seminar was compiled and presented by the planning managers and staff at 3 of the local territorial authorities: Debra Stan-Barton (Hamilton City Council); Ana-Maria D’Aubert and Michell Carmine (Waikato District Council); and Suzanne O’Rourke (Waipa District Council). The session was very well attended, attracting over 70 registrations and there was a lot of interaction between presenters and attendees. This was an excellent opportunity for members to get a feel for how the changes would be given effect as interpreted by the 3 local authorities and our thanks (again) go to the presenters for their time.

In April, the Branch held a purely social ‘after 5’ event to farewell summer and meet with other members. The event was hosted by Mighty River Power at their (relatively) new premises which look out over the Waikato River on Grantham St. It was a beautiful evening and very enjoyable for those that attended, enjoying drinks and nibbles out on the deck to the ‘penthouse’ office suite. Fortunately MRP has a good working relationship with their local electricity supplier and we all benefitted from the overhead heaters that warmed the outdoor deck area. Again, very many thanks to MRP.

Next month we will be hosting the RMLA Road Show that updates latest case law from the High Court. That will be another breakfast meeting and fliers will go out to members shortly. We welcome any suggestions from members regarding further events.

Wellington – Nicky McIndoe / Maia Wikaera

During April the Wellington Branch Young RMLA sub-committee and NZ Planning Institute hosted a seminar on the role of planners and lawyers in hearings.  Judge Dwyer, Rachell Staunton, Kerry Anderson and Alistair Aburn provided practical advice to new practitioners on how best to prepare for and present their cases.  We thank our wonderful panel for their time and wisdom. 

Our next Wellington Branch seminar is on 9 June. ‘Planning in the Middle East’ will give us a chance to hear a different perspective on development and environmental assessment, from those who have worked in the Middle East.  The stories of sand dunes and heatwaves will be quite a contrast to recent Wellington weather!

Queenstown – Jenny Carter

The Late Russell Ibbotson 

The Environment  Court  held a special  valedictory  sitting of  the Court in Queenstown on the 28th April 2015 to honour Queenstown lawyer Russell Ibbotson who died in December following a long illness. 

In attendance were Principal Judge Newhook, Judge Jackson, retired Judge Whiting, Commissioners Sutherland and Edmonds, Russell’s widow Sally, their children, Russell’s mother and extended members of  Russell’s family. In addition the court was filled with local lawyers, other Resource Management  consultants, members of Queenstown Lakes Council staff and friends of Russell. 

Royden Somerville QC and Russell’s former partner from Preston Russell Law and long time friend Warwick Cambridge addressed the court and detailed Russell’s lengthy membership of  the Resource Management  bar, his representation of and involvement with a diverse range of clients and organisations and his many interests outside the law. 

At the conclusion of the sitting The Judges, Commissioners and Russell’s family joined with members of the RMLA and other invited guests for refreshments. 

Queenstown’s growth 

A number of local RMLA members recently attended a very interesting Colliers Market Review and Outlook 2015 session in Queenstown. Key trends identified were that Queenstown’s and Wanaka’s property markets are both now in well-established growth and expansion phases and investor confidence is high. Population growth and increases in tourist numbers are spurring on a commercial and residential construction boom with in excess of $250 million of commercial construction underway in both the public and private sector. Commercial development at Frankton Flats is significant, the finalisation of Plan Change 19 opened up the release of over 60ha of mixed land use, roading is complete around the proposed 1,500 student high school at Remarkables Park, Shotover Country Primary School has opened, Remarkables ski-field has redevelopment circa $40m over two years and Queenstown Airport is expanding rapidly. The area’s development is underpinned by the construction of nearby housing subdivisions including Shotover Country and Jack’s Point. 

Special Housing Accord

In October 2014, a Queenstown Lakes Housing Accord was signed between Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith and Mayor Vanessa Van Uden to provide an additional 1300 homes over the next three years.  Special Housing Areas are a relatively new initiative by the Government in partnership with selected councils, including QLDC, to open up land for affordable, good quality housing in districts where there is a shortage of accommodation, or prices are high. Councils consider and recommend proposals to the Minister of Housing, who decides whether or not a Special Housing Area should be established. The Wakatipu Basin is the second area in the South Island after Christchurch to be covered by a Special Housing Accord.  The Council asked for expressions of interest for special housing areas (SHA’s) last year and are currently assessing those expressions. SHAs are subject to an alternative approval process outside normal RMA processes. The process has shorter timeframes and only provides for discretionary limited notification of applications (not full public notification). There are no rights of appeal (below 4 storey building development). These are considered significant incentives encouraging proponents to deliver more housing supply, especially as the Housing Accord has a limited life. 

Kawarau River Bridge

NZTA is investigating whether to move the proposed replacement Kawarau River Bridge location, at the southern entrance to Queenstown.  NZTA has already called for tenders to replace the existing bridge with a $25 million two-lane version near the existing bridge. We understand that the QLDC has asked NZTA investigate other options for the bridge location after calls from members of the community.