The group of people that will decide the fate of the unitary plan have been appointed.
Environment Minister Amy Adams and Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith have today announced the appointment of eight board members to the Auckland Unitary Plan hearings panel.
The Auckland Unitary Plan will be the first combined resource management plan for Auckland and will replace the regional policy statement, and the regional and district plans that Auckland Council inherited from the eight former councils of the Auckland region.
“It represents the largest planning exercise in the history of New Zealand, and will have significant implications for Auckland and New Zealand’s environmental and economic performance,” the Ministers say.
“The Auckland Unitary Plan hearings panel has an important role to play in shaping the future of Auckland. The panel will hear submissions and make recommendations to the Auckland Council on the proposed plan.”
The panel members have expertise in a wide range of disciplines including law, economics, resource management planning, local government and Tikanga Māori.
The panel was appointed following consultation with Auckland Council and the Independent Maori Statutory Board. The Ministers thanked those entities for their constructive involvement in the process to select the panel members.
The panel will be chaired by David Kirkpatrick, a resource management barrister who has significant experience in consenting and planning.
Mr Kirkpatrick has chaired high profile consent applications and has appeared in front of several Boards of Inquiry.
The other panel members are Des Morrison, Janet Crawford, Paula Hunter, John Kirikiri, Stuart Shepherd, Greg Hill and Peter Fuller.
And here are the biographies of those selected.
David Kirkpatrick (Chair): Mr Kirkpatrick is an experienced resource management barrister, with extensive experience in consenting and planning appeals. He is an accredited independent hearings commissioner, and has chaired council hearings, including a number of high profile consent applications. He also has expert litigation experience, having appeared before consent authorities and Boards of Inquiry.
Des Morrison: Mr Morrison is a former Auckland Councillor, during which time he was Chair of the Rural Advisory Panel and Regulatory Bylaws Committee. Mr Morrison also served as ward councillor for Franklin District and has extensive business experience including General Manager at New Zealand Steel/BHP New Zealand Steel.
Janet Crawford: Ms Crawford is a resource management consultant with expertise in mediation and facilitation. She is a co-founder of the Mediators Institute of New Zealand. Ms Crawford’s previous employment includes Research Associate at Harvard University, and Senior Research Fellow at Waikato and Massey University. Ms Crawford is a winner of the NZ Planning Institute Distinguished Service Award.
Paula Hunter is a planning consultant at MWH with extensive experience in district and regional plan development and specialist skills in structure planning, managing and staging growth and aligning infrastructure requirements. Ms Hunter’s recent work includes strategic advisor for the Hamilton City District Plan review. Ms Hunter is a winner of the NZPI Distinguished Service Award and an accredited independent Hearings Commissioner.
John Kirikiri: Mr Kirikiri has Tikanga Māori expertise in an RMA and emergency management context. He is a qualified independent hearings commissioner and is an independent commissioner for Auckland Council. He is a former Deputy Mayor of Rodney District Council and a former member of the Hibiscus and Bay’s Local Board.
Stuart Shepherd: Mr Shepherd is a director at the Sapere Research Group and provides advice on regulatory economics, business strategy, and public policy. His work as an economist has primarily focussed on infrastructure including economic regulation in the airport, electricity, gas and telecommunications sectors. Mr Shepherd’s previous employment includes roles at Vector and Telecom.
Greg Hill: Mr Hill is a resource management consultant, an accredited independent hearings chair and commissioner. He has significant experience in chairing council hearings and technical expertise in air, land, water and coastal policy issues. He was previously a General Manager of Policy and Planning at Auckland Regional Council, and a principal author of the Auckland Regional Coastal Plan.
Peter Fuller: Mr Fuller is a Barrister with experience and qualifications in resource management law, planning, environmental management, and horticultural science. He has appeared before council hearings, the Environment Court, and the High Court. Mr Fuller is an accredited RMA Commissioner and was formally a Strategic Policy Analyst at the Auckland Regional Council, and project leader on the Auckland Regional Growth Strategy.
Overall I would say the group are fairly balanced however there are a couple of quite interesting choices.
Des Morrison was obviously one of the councillors who helped agree on the unitary plan in its current form and so would bring a very good understand of the discussions that have gone on. During the previous unitary plan debates he was generally very supportive of the idea of a compact city, particularly as a way to help keep productive rural areas from being drowned in low density sprawl or lifestyle blocks. I suspect his position was also greatly influenced from his time prior to the super city where he was a ward councillor on the Auckland Regional Council.
John Kirikiri is another former local body politician. I don’t know much about his views on the Unitary Plan and development but I did find this from Auckland 2040 saying he was one of a few local board members that voted to increase the height limit in the Orewa town centre to six storeys while the rest of the board wanted it at four.
Probably the most concerning of the board members is Peter Fuller. He was recently representing the group of land owners pushing for the areas of Karaka North and Karaka West to be included in the rural-urban boundary, a move that would have required the building of the potentially $1 billion+ Karaka-Weymouth Bridge. It’s something that thankfully died during the Unitary Plan debate. He has also submitted to the parliamentary select committee on housing affordability using many of the same arguments we see from others pushing for rural land to be opened up. He will definitely be one to watch.