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Nelson Tasman Amalgamation

Originally published August 2011 in Nelson Marlborough FarmingAs someone who deals extensively with both the Nelson and Tasman district Councils I do sometimes get asked my views on the proposed amalgamation of the two local authorities.

I can see the pros and cons of the arguments. My main interest is that of how the Resource Management Act will be implemented and administered by one large council, and my concerns mainly are centered around how the rural sector and rural townships would be affected. To a certain extent I already have concerns as to how council staff are treating these areas and that these problems will only get worse.

At the moment a subdivision in Tapawera, or Murchison is treated more or less the same as a subdivision in Richmond. If amalgamation occurs Nelson City will be added to this list.  To apply the same residential standards to say Murchison and Richmond is problematic. For example the development contributions that residential developments pay are at such a level that virtually any residential subdivision in Murchison is not financially viable. Other examples exist with regard to servicing requirements.

The way that rural policy is devised and the way that various rural resource consent applications are dealt with do require a certain knowledge and feel for the rural environment. I am not sure that I would want a Nelson based townie planner processing many of the rural applications I deal with. There is often a practical commonsense approach required for these rural applications. It is very easy for council staff  to go through the rule book and look for reasons to complicate a simple application, some even feel that it is their duty to do so.

Recently I was involved in an application of  which the current state of the roading was an issue.  This planner could have reached for the rulebook and talked about widths, formation standard, shoulder widths etc. but instead stated, “I'm from a rural area and  this is a perfectly decent country road”. That's the sort of practical can do attitude that is at risk of disappearing with amalgamation.

As well as the implementation of the rules, there is also a section of councils devoted to creation of policy. These folk can be a little removed from the resource management coal face and tend to be somewhat theoretical in their approach. I would hate to see the Nelson Policy planners let loose in the wider Tasman District, just as I would not like to to see the Tasman ones put to work in Nelson City.

In the last ten years the resource consent process has become increasingly more bloated and convoluted and less in touch with the practicalities of the rural environment. I guess the impression that I have is that with amalgamation we would not to see an improvement anytime soon.

This article is general in nature and should not be a substitute for specific advice from a suitable professional.

This article was prepared by John Cotton specialized in rural surveys.

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