'Queenstown shortchanged by changes': Planner Blair Devlin


A local planner warns Queenstown will lose its planning autonomy under the government’s proposals to replace the Resource Management Act (RMA).

Instead of a council district plan, this area would operate under a regional plan run out of Dunedin or Invercargill — one of 14 regional plans across New Zealand.

Experienced planner Blair Devlin, who’s with planning and landscape architecture  consultancy Vivian + Espie but has also worked for the Queenstown and Dunedin councils
and for central government, says ‘‘when you think of health and transport, when they’re based out of Dunedin, Queenstown’s always the poor cousin’’.

‘‘I think [the changes] will have big implications for Queenstown.

‘‘Whilst Queenstown Lakes District Council might have an appointee on a panel that deals with this regional plan, that’s a completely different scenario to running that process your

‘‘We’ll be on a panel with Clutha District Council and Central Otago District Council and Dunedin, in those sorts of processes they tend to get dominated by coastal Otago.’’

Devlin points out most new areas in Queenstown like Jack’s Point and Shotover Country have been established by developers’ private plan changes where ‘sweeteners’, like native replanting, are offered up.

However, he expects they’ll be phased out in favour of several template zones.

The government’s replacing the RMA as it wants a system that’s less costly and time-consuming, protects the environment better and also improves housing supply, and therefore affordability.

While stressing he doesn’t hold a candle for the RMA, Devlin believes some aims of the proposed Natural and Built Environments Act (NBEA) are mutually contradictory.

‘‘If you want to protect the environment, building houses all over it isn’t going to necessarily do that.’’

He’s also unsure if the new regime will speed up things as it’s possible more applications will have to be ‘notified’, or publicly advertised, and delays could still occur through the
appeals process.

Environment Minister David Parker last month announced the draft exposure of the NBEA will be referred to a select committee ‘‘to provide an open and transparent platform for the
public to have an early say on this key legislation’’.

A second select committee process will follow when the full Bill is intro duced to Parliament early next year.