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Sunday, 12 August 2012

Land zoning reviews–Part 4

Parts 1-3 appeared on the blog at the end of June (links to them are at the end). The general theme of those items was that the review process was flawed and, no matter what the calibre of those doing the reviews, the process had significant potential to prejudice the outcome. Now that the review process is over, how were the reviews carried out?

Cabinet’s decision on this remain a secret. A request for a copy of the relevant Cabinet papers and minutes was refused by CERA on the grounds they would soon be made public. Well, they haven’t yet, and chances are the review result letters will be out before the public know what Cabinet decided about the review process.

So, how will anyone opening their envelope know that they have received a fair deal? Chances are they won’t, unless in the first instance the letters explain how the review was carried out and what resources were used to review the original zoning decision.

At the moment the recently released EQC/Tonkin & Taylor land reports (here) is the only up to date information on land damage. At a suburb and area level the reports provide an overview of how land damage was recorded. Failure to release this information prior to announcing the review certainly put those unhappy with their land status at a significant disadvantage, and denied them an opportunity to make an informed and considered decision. Deliberate? Probably – otherwise why would CERA have been in such a hurry to announce, conduct, and conclude the reviews?

Perhaps there are other maps that haven’t been made public? A closed review tribunal with secret instructions using secret evidence? Has New Zealand become more like China than we thought? It is interesting the agencies and voices that see themselves as public watchdogs haven’t seen fit to speak out.

Anyway, your request for a review has been considered amidst all this non-disclosure of material information. Then what? Well, we do know that the criteria to be applied is as set out in various Cabinet papers and minutes. It is, therefore, reasonable to expect that you would be told how your area and situation rated against the criteria. Specifically the letter you receive should, at a minimum, address each  of the following criteria in unambiguous “Yes/No” and “because” terms:

Does the area meet the criteria for:

  • thickness of the surface crust
  • lateral spread
  • timeliness
  • uncertainty
  • disruption arising from repairs to infrastructure and property
  • health and welfare.
  • sensible boundaries.

A important point to note: The review panel would not have made an assessment in the absence of quantifiable information. Therefore you could choose to ask for details on each of those points and expect an answer.  Both the Official Information Act and the Privacy Act are statutory safeguards that give you the right to ask for, and receive, information used to make decisions affecting you.

Taking timeliness as an example, it seems appropriate to assume that the panel would have had a schedule of what is to happen in each area around the city. Where is it and what does it say? What assessments have been made on health and welfare? Where are they and what do they say?

Links to previous blogs on the reviews: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3


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