Coney barking up wrong tree

Policy Parrot says:

There is nothing more hilarious than watching Auckland Council fret about legal advice because the advice will be worthless shit.

Today Bernard Orsman reports that Councillor Sandra Coney wants to review legal advice provided to the top Council planners. Her desire to test the lawfulness of the Unitary Plan is smart. But unsurprisingly council officers don’t want her to read it.

This Parrot says that the advice won’t be worth the paper it is written on.

This Parrot can justify said statement because years of legal proceedings such as plan changes, variations, financial contribution battles, Judicial Review’s and other legal brouhaha where Council has either lost or had it’s planning provisions substantially changed proves they are getting poor advice over which fights they can win and which they can’t. They always start the process thinking they are right and what they have drafted is vires.

For example six long years of LGAAA and Plan Change 6 appeals on the Regional Policy Statement. The end result was a clear win for opponents of Council’s planning provisions. Or heritage provisions through Plan Change 167 in Auckland City – pulverised by Remuera locals. What about the tree rules smashed to oblivion by the Property Council?

The point this Parrot is making is that Council legal advice falls short more often than it upholds a Council position with wins. Provisions do get overturned and often.?

Therefore if the track record of wins by Council in Court is anything to go by their legal advice sucks.

Which is in part why most of the property industry is so focused on the legal nuances of the plan rather than the detail. The legal landscape of the Unitary Plan has always been Council’s Achilles heel and the plan can be unpicked easily on legal grounds.

Lately a degree of self righteousness and arrogance has permeated from the in house legal team of Council lead by Wendy Brandon who – in her own self supremacy – recently wrote to Acting Chief Judge Laurier Newhook of the Environment Court to tell him his Court are to blame for Council’s woes. Amongst other things. How to win friends and influence people!

Judge Newhook wasn’t impressed and he made sure Council CEO Doug McKay and Mayor Brown knew about it. Now Judge Newhook refuses to correspond with Wendy and has relegated her to dealing with the Court registrar as a sign of his respect.

There is nothing like an arrogant shit of a lawyer to remind you that the advice they give may be tainted with a degree of self righteous ‘I know best’.

Given the general attitude of the lethargic in-house legal team led by Wendy it’s of no surprise that Auckland Council thinks its right. The permeating stench of arrogance is like a broken sewer pipe.

So can the advice given to Council officers be trusted or relied upon? And is it right?

Then there are the external lawyers.

Particularly the dark Sith Lords of death from Simpson and Grierson (Simply Gruesome). Whilst being a large firm with some skilled people they also work almost exclusively for Councils.

It is hard for Simply Gruesome to offer an objective view on whether Council provisions are lawful. They don’t often tell their biggest customer their ideas suck because the ensuing issues, appeals and mediation on crappy planning provisions are a cash cow. It’s a license to print money letting Council run ragged with stupid planning ideas that have no merit and legal basis. Any external firm who has ongoing business with Council will nod, smile and wave and rub their hands together. Suckers!

So what is this Parrot saying?

If this Parrot were Sandra Coney I wouldn’t want to see the legal advice Roger Blakeley has. It will be worthless dribble.

If this Parrot were Sandra this Parrot would be asking around the property industry and big lobby groups, Barristers, community groups and planners to see what they think.

These are the parties who will give an unbiased opinion and tell Sandra the truth about issues that exist with the Unitary Plan on legal grounds. As they file their teeth ready for the notified plan fight they will already be lining up their legal arguments against provisions that Council has drafted. So they will know the holes and issues and where to focus the fight.

Clearly there is now a concern Council won’t reveal it’s own legal advice. But there is also the nagging issue that most legal advice Council receives is from a bunch of angry front bum lawyers with superiority complexes who have a legacy of advocating Council planning that is beaten down in Court or from external firms gleefully hoping for the plan to go feral and be subject to wide sweeping appeals.

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