Consultation is the key: the Hurunui District Plan

When the Hurunui District Plan became operative, there was a greater-than-usual level of satisfaction at the District Council Offices in Amberley because the plan had been approved with no appeals received from the public.

The Hurunui District sits north of Christchurch, and stretches from the east coast to the main divide.  It’s a rural district, with a population of around 12,000 people, and a land area of approximately 864,640 hectares.

The District Plan – which governs the way the land uses within Hurunui District are managed and directs the development of its settlements  – is a critical document. Reviewing and developing a new District Plan is a significant undertaking, typically taking years and with several comprehensive studies informing the final plan.

Landscape planner Yvonne Pfluger, from Boffa Miskell’s Christchurch office prepared the landscape and coastal natural character studies that informed the District Plan.

Yvonne was also deeply involved with the community consultation around those studies.

Regulatory services manager Judith Batchelor says, “The Council identified early on that we needed to engage with landowners about the impact of reviewing the extent of the coastal environment and outstanding landscapes.

“Having Yvonne available at public engagement meetings, drop in sessions and site visits enabled landowners to understand the important values present on their properties and why they needed to be protected.”

During the District Plan review phase, a brochure was sent out to landowners, explaining the extent and location of the landscapes, features and coastal areas that are considered special in the District, as well as a summary of the management mechanisms proposed to be contained in the District Plan for these areas.

During the consultation process, it became apparent that some landowners preferred to work one on one with the Council.

“Engagement is about participation,” says Yvonne. “So, in that capacity, as a landscape planner and consultant, my role was to help the landowners understand what the proposed District Plan would mean to them and how it might affect their properties. Some of these rural properties are several hundred hectares – so each one was impacted differently. There was no one-size-fits-all explanation.”

“Additionally, engagement is about finding solutions. In this case, it was responding to concerns expressed by both the Council and the landowners, and coming up with a plan that satisfied both and fulfilled the requirements under the Resource Management Act by ensuring the adequate protection of the district’s landscapes.”

While working one-on-one with landowners meant the process of getting agreement on the mapping and provisions prior to public notification took longer, very few submissions were received in relation to the chapters and no appeals were received.

Judith says, “Taking the time to work with landowners throughout the process and Yvonne’s open approach to looking and revising areas at individual properties where requested, enabled a very positive process.”

“It’s almost unheard-of for a District Plan, in an area as complex as Hurunui, to be approved with no public appeals,” says Yvonne. “Consultation and engagement played a huge role in making that happen, and it was very satisfying to be a part of such a landmark project.”

For further information please contact Yvonne Pflüger

6 August 2018