by John Stringer.
“Eastgate” report, the public meetings in Christchurch.
More than 300 people attended the “Eastgate” public meeting in New Brighton on Tuesday and less on Wednesday at Redcliffs, in Christchurch. There were two councillors present, several community board members from across the city, the media, mayor Lianne Dalziel and city CEO Dr Karleen Edwards as well as half a dozen community residents groups.
At New Brighton it was standing room only.
Sir Tipene O’Regan was present by way of a letter of support which was read out, saying the elected representatives under Code of Conduct disciplinary action by Council had “Properly stood up to Council bureaucracy…as they should…(against) imperious sultans who seem to have misused their authority…”
There were several speakers who were all to the point.
Cr David East…
outlined the main issues as he saw them and explained why he’d gone public. He said the “alleged tampering had heavily impacted local residents…denying residents their legal rights …and the economic loss (to them) could run in to the millions.”
He said they’d had many meetings over many many months with Council but go nowhere. ”A policy of deny, defer, delay!” He’d therefore raised his concerns with the Office of the Prime Minister and the Local Govt Minister and asked for an enquiry; an independent investigation to establish the “reliability of the process and of the actions of the officials involved with …Decision 53.”
Cr David East and Sir John Hansen (IHP) had several correspondences regarding the “onerous” conditions of the District Plan and its effect on locals.
Hansen outlined the steps taken to arrive at Decision 53. There had been a minute to Council from the IHP to draw up new maps and effectively be the IHP’s drafting body, despite CCC being opposed to the changes and/or that function. However it was done. The IHP still concluded the Plan was “onerous” and issued 53 granting relief by way of an RDA.
The RDA rule was in the Plan but the policy was omitted. Other changes and corrections were dealt with by Council as the “drafting body” for IHP but at no time was the omitted policy addressed.
Cr East likened that to a Law Clerk changing a Judge’s decision when drafting it up, because they did not personally like the Judge’s decision.
East said there had been a clear undermining of due process during the review of the Plan. There was also a clear statement from staff of their complicity, which came to attention through the community board.
East and his colleagues primary objective was to reinstate the missing clause.
Kim Money Chairman of Coastal-Burwood Community Board…
said they all wanted “Resolution and Restitution…that it was an issue that had brought huge trauma to many families.”
“We’ve brought this out into the public arena because it is unjust.”
Tim Sintes, Deputy Chair C&B Community Board…
“We’ve gone to Council…It’s so wrong” (people not getting their consents after paying the Council thousands of dollars applying). “Please fix it!Stop making our job (as Community Board members) so hard!”
He expressed his frustration that residents came to them expecting help, but they felt stonewalled and hindered at Council process level.
There was huge applause from the 300 strong crowd at New Brighton when he asked, “have we done the right thing?” (going public, for which they are now under disciplinary proceedings).
“The Rules are impossible to get round. It’s criminal!”
Darrell Latham, Linwood-Central-Heathcote Community Board…
wanted to send a clear message to City Hall that they had a “tiger by the trail.” He called the issue “Red zoning by stealth” via the Residential Overlay; that it had caused “considerable strain and stress” on all of them (East, Money, Sintes, Latham). “This issue is a couple of years old. It is finally being heard.”
He outlined that residents had wished to remain anonymous to not prejudice their negotiations with Council as applicants, so they were relying on their elected representatives to be their public voice.
Latham criticised Minister Woods for praising the heart of the city was being restored with advancement on the Cathedral rebuild, but said, “Time for the Minister to return the heart back in to the coastal suburbs using s.71.”
He said their collective second priority was that this must never happen again. “We don’t want to be Weapons of Destruction but a force for good.”
Warwick Schaffer NZ Coastal Residents Forum and local residents group…
explained the details of the Clause, the Rule and Policy, put up a map of the (red zone) Residential Overlay and explained the consents restrictions on locals was due to the Coastal Hazards Policy (CHP). Essentially that is the risk of future flooding due to climate change. There was no present risk, and none of it related to the earthquakes, so he felt eastern suburbs were being unduly prejudiced in the Plan. They had submitted that future building in the east should not be restricted.
The IHP of three High Court judges agreed.
The Council favoured a ban on all future building inside the Residential Overlay because of this risk of climate change flooding. As the drafting body of IHP the IHP holds that Council was obliged to follow IHP’s instructions.
Mr Schaffer put up a slide that showed the initial submissions which contained the policy, and then the final submission by Council which omitted it altogether and reworded a clause at variance with the policy. Schaffer said the policy was “not just deleted but was rewritten.” If true, that goes beyond some sort of simple clerical typo or error but deliberate “tampering” as alleged by Cr East.
The outcome was “a void” and “no provision for development” in the east.
The critical point is that residents having paid $25k or so for consents, Planners when reviewing their applications would see a void.
“More digging in to this is required. We need to fix it now before we go into who did what. S. 71 is a good option.”
Unfortunately under law, the District Plan is now locked and Council cannot change it off its own bat. The mayor made much of this point, blaming the “previous government” three times on this point. The process is they have to go to the Minister and seek change under a s.71 (the same as applied to variations over the moving of Redcliffs School also in the area).
The eastern members said the issue was “in the staff” and they needed elected members (Councillors, local MPs, community board members) to step in and help them.
Three Affected Members of the Public…
A valuable insight was three speeches from affected locals.
- A member of the Pier and Foreshore Society said they were all “Undie Supported by Council” and had hung 300 undies on the Brighton pier.
He said his family could not extend. They’d bought in 2016, got geo reports, engineers’ reports, architects’ reports and there were absolutely no red flags. None from Council either. They had to vary their plans under direction from Council at more expense, but then found they were declined consent in contradiction to all their earlier advice. Cost: $8000 out of pocket.
People had left the area because they could not expand, say to address a growing family, so left the area.
- An almost Retired Mum…
cannot insure their eastern house in the Red Zone so she and her husband bought a Red Zone house and section next door for $90k as security in case their home burned down.
When buying there were no issues up to August 2017 via lawyers’ due diligence, no issues with the bank processes of analysis of risk who loaned them money to buy, no issues with a Master Builder. Council imposed certain foundational stipulations which upped their application costs and they lodged a consent application Feb 2018.
They were advised under s.37 they needed a further Resource Consent. Numerous further Geo Tech reports were added but they are advised under the current regime they are unlikely to be granted a building consent under the Plan. Cost out of pocket” $27,749.80c almost 1/3 the value of their property (for nothing).
“Almost Retired Mum” said the issue was supposedly about the future risk of rising oceans not whether you can build or not, locally. ‘We have a consent but cannot build and are still being charged rates against money we’ve borrowed to buy and build.’
“I want Council to have an open, honest and transparent communication process” (when people are buying property to build or vary).
- Father of Young Family…
Said his issues were identical, his costs were: $26,000 out of pocket.
There were robust questions from the floor and mayor Dalziel addressed several of these, as did the CEO over the Code of Conduct issues, which grated with many of the public present. There is to be an informal meeting this Thursday to see if the parties can address that issue alone, in isolation and find a positive way forward.
There was a mixed response to some of the mayor’s answers and several speakers, including elected members, got up and contradicted statements she had made (particularly regarding her timing awareness of the issue).
A representative of the South Brighton Residents Assc said the public needed protection, by the Council, against $10,000 insurance raises alongside no ability to build or vary.
A drafter of a motion put to the meeting in support of the eastern elected members said s.15 of the Local Govt. Act unbound elected members from onerous Codes of Conduct and gagging orders, in that they had an elected role to contradict Council if that was in the interests of their residents.
The mayor has to be given credit for attending, as does the CEO, and at first never intended to speak, just to listen, but was specifically asked to by the public to respond.
She gave an undertaking to immediately fix the problem as best Council could, she supported an enquiry to find out how all this happened, she spoke of a Thursday meeting in Council this week to address the issue, and suggested an Order in Council might be the best way forward, to “correct” the Plan rather than amend it; A s.71 would take longer. Ms Dalziel said she’d undertaken significant personal research on this, and spoken to the Minister of Local Government.
The CEO did not answer questions about the Code of Conduct proceedings retreating behind process when asked about details by the public.