A two-year project to streamline the way customers use Hamilton’s District Plan is set to save applicants hundreds of thousands of dollars in combined savings every year, reduce application paperwork and remove the need for resource consents completely in some cases.
Louise Feathers, a Hamilton-based resource consent specialist, says the project is a progressive step in the relationship between the Council and the planning and development community, adding the improvements will be welcomed.
The Regulatory Effectiveness and Efficiency Programme (REEP) started in 2017 and 77 recommendations resulting from the study have been included in a Plan Change currently out for public submissions.
Hamilton City Council Project Manager Debra Stan-Barton says the programme analysed processing data from almost 2000 resource consents, interviewed consent applicants, planners, developers and Council staff, and tracked every step of the customer journey to find improvements.
“We wanted to make sure we retained the outcomes the Plan intended, but at the same time reduce the ‘red tape’ where we could. The changes will save time and money for the community and the Council and, based on our consenting review, will mean around 80 less consents will be needed each year,” Debra says.
“This isn’t the end of the project by any means; through the REEP we’ve identified other areas and processes which we will be streamlining to make the customer journey easier.”
Many of the changes are around simplifying wording and reducing the amount of paperwork for applicants, but other changes include removing resource consent requirements for some activities.
“In some cases, where we can meet the District Plan requirements, we’re saying we don’t need a resource consent as well. Providing people can meet the other consent and planning requirements, we’ve recommended people can have three dwellings on one residential lot, or build additional buildings on a community site as a permitted activity. We’ve also removed height restrictions for buildings in part of the CBD,” Debra says.
“Essentially, we’re saying the resource consent application in some cases isn’t needed, so if we can remove it or simplify it, it saves time and money for applicants.”
Those savings will be welcomed by Louise Feathers’ clients. Louise Feathers Planning is a Hamilton-based consultancy which works with developers across the city.
“Time is money. Elimination of obscure rules that can trip up an otherwise compliant development is a huge benefit for our clients. The time saved in this regard will mean a more efficiently run construction project,” Louise says.
“Clarifying and simplifying the District Plan will make for easier interpretation and hopefully better decision making.
“The REEP process and the recommendations as provided in Plan Change 6 are a transformative step for the way the Council works with property owners in Hamilton. We will always think there’s more that could be done to streamline processes but this project shows a commitment to making it easier to do business in the city,” she says.
“Hamilton is flourishing with growth in all sectors and if we want to keep enabling that growth we need this partnership approach between the Council and its customers to work together to identify (and Council to ratify) improvements. Debra and the project team have done a really thorough job and I hope we’re going to see further refinements and more improvements in the future.”