Maybe not a plan change… Really Megan?

Helipad consenting was raised by Cr Mike Lee at today’s Planning, Environment and Parks Committee. A response was provided by Auckland Council Chief of Strategy Megan Tyler (who also wrote this opinion piece in July). Video of the item can be found here (starting at 6:05).

Megan promised to send out a memo to update the Local Boards and stated that early next year there will be an officer report with recommendations that will be voted-on by the Committee.

One jaw-dropping moment happened (at 10:50) when Megan seemed to suggest that a plan change might not be the suggested outcome: “We’ll report back to this committee with some options which may include a plan change; there may be other things“.

This is incomprehensible, given that council has to, under the law, enact plan changes to give effect to New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement (NZCPS), which has strict rules requiring no adverse impacts on threatened native species, and which section 4.3 of council’s own Helicopter Planning and Guidance Note cites as critical to helipad processing, but which council’s planning officers say they cannot currently consider when processing helipad consent applications.

And council must also give effect to the Noise and Vibration Metrics National Planning Standard (NPS-15), which prohibits the use of averaging of noise impacts in helipad consenting. Pretending that the average noise over several days is the effect to be considered – rather than the actual noise whilst a helicopter is taking off or landing – has been a key factor that has allowed consents to be granted.

The NZCPS was gazetted over twelve years ago and the NPS-15 over three years ago. Under the law, council is supposed to give effect to the NZCPS “as soon as practicable” (RMA s55(2D)(a)) and they are also obliged to give effect to the NPS-15. Very few, if any, of the helipad consents which have been granted during this time (which accounts for the majority of the now 61 consented helipads on Waiheke Island) are likely to have been granted had council already given effect to the NZCPS and NPS-15, in a timely fashion, by making those obligatory plan changes already.

How then could council be thinking that their options next year may not involve a plan change?