The preparation of a proposed plan, or even a plan change, involves a huge investment of resources, time and energy. Notifying a proposed plan sets off the formal RMA process. It is vital therefore to get things right before a plan is notified:
Develop an overall project strategy well before notification, including timeframes, resources, systems and programmes
Link with the Annual Plan to ensure the process is well resourced, particularly in terms of staff, to provide that all tasks will be adequately undertaken (even for plan changes)
Make sure everyone involved understands and is fully informed about the full process, including councillors, and council and administration staff. Familiarisation should reduce the potential for problems and mistakes. Flowcharts are a good way to show steps and statutory requirements
Have a publicity strategy for information dissemination, education and involvement. Aside from the formal statutory requirements involved with notification (see Schedule 1, Part 1), a strategy for publicising a plan is essential. Councillors’ full involvement in this preparation is critical, as they will need to work with the community and stakeholders throughout the process
Obtain councillor buy-in to the process before notification. They must be part of the process of preparing for notification. Brief all councillors about the process and protocols. For example, speaking to the media about the plan may prevent councillors from hearing submissions and making decisions
Upskill the community beforehand - generally, the more involved a community is with preparing a proposed plan before notification, the better the post-notification process: for example, submissions tend to be more focused and constructive. There are many different techniques that can be used. Some are listed below
A good tracking and recording process is needed, for the pre-notification consultation process as much as the formal submission process.
The draft plan is a consultation technique used by many local authorities prior to notifying their proposed plan. While issuing a non-statutory document can create costs and time delays, it provides a means for addressing issues outside the formal legal process subsequent to notification. It may also have some benefits in terms of reducing costs over the longer term if done well. Some local authorities limit the release of draft plans (or sections thereof) to targeted stakeholder groups and representative persons. It is important that the draft plan has the level of detail necessary for constructive feedback for example, objectives and policies are insufficient on their own
The process for incorporating requirements into the District Plan must be followed correctly prior to notification (refer to clause 4, Part 1 of the First Schedule). While often perceived as a side technical exercise, errors in following the procedures for including designations can result in significant delays and problems for notifying a plan. It is important not to underestimate the time involved in this part of the process
A section 32 evaluation is required throughout the plan-making process and an evaluation report must be publically available at the time of notification. The Resource Management Amendment Act 2013 provides greater guidance and specificity about what is required in a section 32 report, particularly for the assessment of costs and benefits. These changes come into force on 4th December 2013 (3 months after Royal Accent). Further information is provided in the section 32 guidance note.