Far North District Council review

In 2009, the Minister for the Environment ordered a Section 24A investigation into the performance of the Far North District Council. Find out about the review, including the terms of reference and review team biographies. 

About the review

During the 2007/08 financial year, the Far North District Council (FNDC) processed 37 per cent of resource consents within the statutory timeframes. The Ministry for the Environment contracted Cowie Resource Management Ltd and Hill Young Cooper Ltd to carry out an investigation into what steps the Council had taken since that time to improve its processes and advise on any additional improvements that were required. The final report presenting the findings of the review can be viewed at:

Section 24A RMA Investigation of the Consent Processing Performance of the Far North District Council: An Investigation of the Council’s Performance in the 2007/08 year

Terms of reference for the review

1. Purpose of Investigation

1.1. The purpose of this investigation is to identify what has led to the councils' poor performance record over the last year and identify possible solutions.

2. Scope of the Investigation

2.1. The investigation will cover the following factors.

  • Applications: guidance for applicants and use of section 92
  • Analysis of consent processing systems and practices
  • Council staffing and use of resources
  • Administrative systems and tools
  • Internal audits and monitoring
  • Customer relationships and feedback.
  • Other contextual matters.

3. Methodology for Investigation

3.1. Investigations will be undertaken by an external consultant with RMA resource consent experience, with project management and oversight being provided by the Monitoring Compliance and Review Team at the Ministry for the Environment. Project support will be provided by the Resource Management Practice Team.

3.2. The consultant and an analyst from the Monitoring, Compliance and Review Team will spend three days with each council undertaking discussion with council staff and assessing databases, file information and council administrative systems. Council staff that will need to be available will include the Consent Manager, several Consent Officers, the Planning Administrator (if applicable) and Customer Services staff (if applicable). The discussion will be based around a set of investigation questions (Attachment 1). These questions, along with further information on the documents to be assembled prior to the investigation, will be pre-circulated to the councils.

4. Reporting

4.1. The findings (including any recommendations) from the investigations will form the basis of a draft report to be discussed with the council before being finalised and presented to the Minister for the Environment. A copy of each final report will be provided to the relevant council concerned.

4.2. These investigations may result in recommendations being made to each council on ways to improve their performance under section 24A(b) of the Resource Management Act. This may include further monitoring of the councils performance.

5. Term of investigation

5.1. The investigations are planned to take place over a three day period in November 2009.

5.2. The findings from the investigation will be reported back to the Minister for the Environment by 11 December 2009.

5.3. Any final recommendations on ways to improve council performance will be reported to the councils following the report back to the Minister on council performance.

Biographies of review team

Mark St.Clair (Hill Young Cooper Ltd)

Mark St.Clair is a Director with Hill Young Cooper Ltd; a public policy and resource management consultancy with offices in Auckland and Wellington. Mark has 18 years resource management experience in local & central government and consultancy roles. He has considerable experience in statutory resource consent applications and policy formulation for both public and private sector clients, and is also an accredited hearings Commissioner. 

Brent Cowie (independent consultant)

Dr Cowie is an aquatic ecologist by training, and has over 25 years experience in resource management.  This has included 12 years as the manager responsible for all the resource management functions of the Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council.  A consultant since July 2001 Dr Cowie has been on numerous panels hearing and deciding resource consent applications, many as chair.  He was one of three commissioners who in late 2008 granted 58 resource consents to TPL authorising a new power scheme in the Arnold Valley on the West Coast.  Dr Cowie recently completed a report for the Minister for the Environment reviewing the processing of TrustPower's application by Marlborough District Council to operate a hydro-scheme on the Wairau River.