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Source: MIL-OSI Submissions
Source: New Zealand Planning Institute (NZPI)

The lockdown is a prime opportunity for councils to clear any consent backlogs, minimising potential delays to development projects when restrictions end, the New Zealand Planning Institute (NZPI) said today.

“We support the Government’s appeal to councils that encourage them to continue consenting during the COVID-19 crisis,” says NZPI Chair Karyn Sinclair.

“The majority of consents are cost-recoverable. At a time when councils are facing a down-turn in income streams it makes economic sense to take advantage of the quieter period and clear as many consents as possible – which will also mean there is work ready to go when we come out of lockdown.”

Minister for the Environment David Parker sent a letter to councils last week urging them to use the lockdown to clear a backlog of development consents, creating a pipeline of projects to help stimulate the economy.

“Control over planning and consenting functions rests almost entirely with councils. These functions have essential service status because of the crucial role they play in the operation of the economy,” states the letter, which was sent to mayors, council chairs and local government chief executives.

“I urge you to address any consenting backlogs you have, so projects that employ people are not unnecessarily delayed once the COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed. I encourage chief executives and governing bodies to pay special attention to backlogs, and to thereby play an important part in getting the economy rolling again.”

Councils can use a range of innovative tools to help process consents without the need for site visits, says Karyn.

“Councils have Geographic Information Systems, along with access to aerial photographs and mapped networks. These tools can be used to process the majority of consents under the current constraints, while still retaining core planning principles, to ensure developments are not delayed unnecessarily.

“Now is the time for councils to respond innovatively, and we encourage them to use this time to help position the economy for recovery. There is no reason why consents cannot be processed during the lockdown, ensuring regional projects are not side-lined.”