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Devonport Heritage 2017, an incorporated society formed in 2017, promotes heritage and sustainable development in Devonport.


Greater transparency sought over Resource Consent blunder

Spokesperson McRae

Auckland Council seems reluctant to consider the impact on neighbours of properties which have been issued with resource consents which have been defined by the Environment Court as being issued in error due to incorrect process.

As detailed in the previous article, Auckland Council admitted back in August that it had issued around 420 resource consents which lay within Special Character Areas - Devonport being one of these areas of the City. These consents were found to have used only the criteria of this Special Character Area Residential (SCAR) Overlay in assessing scope of work rather than the underlying Single Housing Zone (SHZ) Overlay as well. As such these c. 420 consents would have to be re-submitted.

The Council have demonstrated a myopic view that the only parties affected by this blunder are the applicants - those wishing to undertake the work, and have rallied around to support the applicants to get the re-submitted consents processed and approved.

At Devonport Heritage we judge that affected parties in such situations where the Council has been at fault extend beyond the applicants. The neighbours would rightly feel they are an affected party in this situation where the council have been found to follow due process. That is why we made a written request to the Council for them to provide the addresses of all of those applicants of these resource consents. It was our judgement that such a move would be in the best interests of the community and should force the Council into demonstrating a greater sense of responsibility for their error and also providing greater transparency. It is important to note that Resource Consents once issued become public record so the Council providing such a list of addresses (not the owners) breaches no confidentiality.

The request for this public list of addresses was made on the 17th September. On the 15th October a letter was received from Auckland Council denying the request for the list of addresses.

The letter above cites Section 7(2)(a) of the Local Government Official Information and Meeting Act. This clause states:

Subject to sections 6, 8, and 17, this section applies if, and only if, the withholding of the information is necessary to—
(a) protect the privacy of natural persons, including that of deceased natural persons; or

The interpretation of this in simple plain english is that the request is denied to protect a person’s privacy. The request was for addresses of properties that proposed to have construction work undertaken, not the names of the applicants. Such addresses are in principle public, therefore not breaching anyones privacy. (As an aside but of relevance is the fact that this letter referred to both the general public release of all addresses, as well a personal request I had concerning a neighbours house. The fact that the Council in the same letter shared what on the one hand they considered private for all addresses suddenly became public for one address, and in so doing showed that the Council really chose to deny the request without thinking.)

Subsequent to this letter Devonport Heritage (Trish Deans and Alistair Helm) were invited to attend and address the Heritage Advisory Panel for Auckland Council at their bi-monthly meeting on 23rd October.

At the meeting this request for the public release of the addresses was highlighted in addition to the broader issues of the blunder by the Council. The meeting is public record and the minutes are available online here

The Committee on receiving the presentation by Devonport Heritage fully shared Devonport Heritage’s concern over the Council’s handling of this issue and fully supported the request. The committee passed a resolution as detailed below:

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On the 30th October the Chair of the Heritage Advisory Panel submitted this letter to the CEO of Auckland Council Stephen Town.

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We intend to continue to pursue this matter and will update our community with the outcome and hopefully the list of addresses.