Finally – somewhere – a Council planner’s head might be chopped off. About time!

For too many years developers, builders, property empires, land owners and home owners have ?suffered at the hands of local government dunces. It would appear that they operate with a degree of impunity and with complete disregard for professional expertise let alone the law.

Now that at least one goon is going we might only hope that the same will happen in Auckland. What New Zealand doesn’t need – is more of these useless control freaks doing whatever they want.

For some, it is black and white. Christchurch City Council’s planning department has been doing a useless job for years. And it is about to get what’s coming.

It failed early on after the earthquakes because Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee had to take over the council’s draft central city plan and create his own recovery blueprint.

It failed again in taking too long to get going with a general rethink of the city’s planning map. Brownlee?had to set in motion the fast-track Land Use Recovery Plan (Lurp), followed by an equally accelerated District Plan review, to impose certainty on a quivering landscape.

Now it has failed even this test, judging by the rough words of the Government-appointed independent hearings panel charged with pushing through the District Plan before the Earthquake Minister’s statutory powers disappear next year.

Every resource management lawyer in town is talking about what the panel chair, former Christchurch High Court judge Sir John Hansen, said about the council’s chief planning officer Mike Theelen, when ripping into the suggested draft version.

After blasting the council’s work on a new manual of planning regulations for the usual reasons ? vague, wordy, ineffective ? Hansen went much further in singling out Theelen personally, saying he seemed surprisingly ill-informed about the draft’s contents given he was meant to be in charge.?

“That points to a lack of quality control. This would appear to have also contributed to the serious shortcomings of the Notified Version,” Hansen grimly noted in his March verdict.

The paragraph containing these comments has been snipped out and is circulating in gleeful emails. “After that, this guy’s gotta go,” one prominent developer, no fan, chortled.

And then in May, the other shoe dropped. Council chief executive Dr Karleen Edwards announced a three-prong probe into the planning department.

Edwards is already running a more general “Great for Christchurch” review of the council’s structure to deal with criticisms that Christchurch City Council has grown so large and bureaucratic that it has lost sight of the community it is meant to be serving.

The axe is expected to swing in the second half of this year once the results are in. And it will have sent shivers through the planning department that Edwards is spending some $100,000 on outside experts to report on the quality of its work in three areas.

Separately, the reviews will consider its efforts with the replacement District Plan, its “busy body” Urban Design Panel, and its day-to-day resource consenting behaviour.

Again, this news prompted a flurry of gleeful texts and emails within Christchurch’s development circles. Somebody is about to get what’s coming at last.

These little upstarts think they rule the roost, as they hold every one to ransom.

Let’s hope the Christchurch City Council knows how to dispatch at least one of them.


– The Press