News & Events
Council defends response timeframesTuesday, 23 June 2009
Southland District Council believes its resource management response timeframes have improved markedly from the Ministry for the Environment figures released recently. Finance Minister Bill English, who is also the MP for Clutha-Southland, has criticised the Southland Council for its 73rd position in the MfE report. However, Council chief executive David Adamson said the data in the report is between 12 and 23 months old (from 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008).
"We have been able to recruit staff with more experience and have implemented several measures in staff training to streamline consent processing and create efficiencies since this time.
"We have also dealt with the largest number of consents within this period of all southern councils excluding Queenstown Lakes (Southland processed 395 consents, Invercargill City 345, Clutha District 133, Gore 75). For Southland District, this was an increase of almost 100 percent from the previous year.
"I would rather Council took 2 days longer than the required 20 days and produced the right decision based on the right information than rubberstamp an inadequate application within the timeframe and it not be robust. If it's late it's late once, if it's wrong it's wrong forever. Council is, however, endeavouring to get it right and on time," Mr Adamson said today.
Council resource management manager Bruce Halligan said Council also queries the accuracy of the survey data as it appears several councils have been using Section 37 of the Resource Management Act, which allows councils to lengthen processing timeframes.
"Those councils who use section 37 and process a consent in 39 days will still be classed as within time, whereas those who don't use the section and process a consent in 21 days are over time.
"Southland District Council does not use this section. If we had, our ranking would have been different, but that would give a false impression of processing times."
Staff have raised this with MfE but have not received a response.
A resource management customer service survey has also been recently undertaken and this has shown a marked improvement in customer satisfaction since the previous one in 2007.
In 2009 71.3 percent of those surveyed were satisfied with resource management staff, compared to 59.6% in 2007. Overall satisfaction was up slightly to 58.8% from 55.1%, but dissatisfaction had decreased by nearly 10%, from 32.7% in 2007 to 23.5% in 2009.
Council also receives a lot of consent applications which have been filled out by individuals and often need more information and detail.
Mr Adamson said he would like Mr English to come south and talk to Council about the issue so he could understand it better.
"The two largest developments that have been built in Southland in the past five years - White Hill Windfarm and the Fonterra extension at Edendale - have both been within our District and in both cases, we have received praise from these applicants for our professionalism and processes."
Mr Halligan said he and his department are happy to be judged on their results, provided that everyone has the full picture and it is being judged on a level playing field with other councils in relation to processing time calculations.
"Timeliness is only one component of resource consent decision-making; and we consider getting adequate information from applicants with which to adequately assess a proposal and its impacts on the environment and our communities is very important.
"We also refer non-notified applications in our community board areas to the boards for input prior to approval , which many other councils don't do. This does lengthen the timeframe but it provides community input and makes for a more robust process.
"I think we enjoy a positive working relationship with our customers, particularly our regular clients who lodge multiple applications with us, and we value this relationship very highly. Our recent customer survey showed that 81% of our customers were happy with the service that they received from the resource management staff, which we think is a good result bearing in mind that with resource consent outcomes you can't necessarily please all the people all of the time." Mr Halligan said.
Who to contact
If you would like to discuss a matter on this page, feel free to contact us:
Southland District Council
P.O. Box 903
Phone: 0800 732 732
Fax: 0800 732 329