Public participation in resource management decision-making : Christchurch wastewater : a case study
Currently New Zealand's political climate could best be described as a form of liberal democracy that allows for some form of public participation in resource management decision making. In the past there was little opportunity for the public to have input into decisions that had an effect on the public at large. Therefore, the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) was praised for its mechanisms for including the public in local government decision-making. The aim of this report is to find out if public participation in resource management decision making is yielding positive results, and to make recommendations as to what degree and type of public participation, if any, government should pursue in resource management decision making. A literature review and case study on the Christchurch Wastewater consultation process were used to address this aim. It was found that since the adoption of the RMA there has been conflict between the so called 'New Right' government, striving for cost efficiency and weakening opportunities for active public participation, and social and environmental groups that are pushing for more participation. Currently, proposed amendments to the RMA threaten opportunities for participation, reflective of government's move toward more cost-efficient approaches. It was also found that more participatory approaches to environmental decision making could be beneficial in avoiding what might otherwise be a costly, adversarial process. From this research, the following recommendations, aimed at central government, local authorities and the community, have been made. Central government should maintain the current situation, without the proposed amendments to the RMA, but push for a more participatory approach to decision making. Councils should take steps to encourage an ideological and attitude change in staff members, toward a participatory ethos. Councils should also experiment and trial new participatory approaches to environmental decision-making. Finally, community groups should lobby at local and central governmental level for more participation in environmental decision making. This is to be done in conjunction with the following recommendations: Central Government 1. MfE should establish 'good practice' guidelines for large scale, contentious issues, based on the 'principles for participation' that are developed in this report. 2. PCE should monitor the implementation of the 'good practice' guidelines. 3. MfE should organise workshops and training programs to help ensure that the 'good practice' guidelines are followed correctly. 4. In order to avoid a decrease in opportunities for public participation, the following proposed amendments to the RMA should not be adopted: direct referral to the environment court; contestable consent processing; and limited notification of resource consents. Local Authorities 5. Councils should take a more active role in getting the public involved in environmental decision-making relating to large scale, widely contentious issues 6. Within council, education programs should be developed to educate staff on how to go about more participatory focused approaches to decision making, and what the role of council is under MfE's 'good practice' guidelines, for public participation. 7. Councils should take on the role of an 'enabler' and a 'facilitator'. 8. Councils should make better use of pre-hearing meetings and opportunities in the consent process for dialogue. 9. Councils should establish policy on conflict management. 10. Councils need to recognise the difference between consultation for environmental decision making and consultation for an ABE. 11. Where possible, guidelines for notification or resource consents should be specified in plans, as well as criteria outside the plan. 12. Feedback on public participation processes should be obtained through surveys, small group meetings or written comments. Community 13. Community groups should make an active effort to become involved and pursue public participation opportunities. 14. Representatives of community groups need to ensure they make every effort to accurately represent the interests of their group. Further Research 15. Tertiary institutions should have the role of encouraging and providing research into public participation processes.... [Show full abstract]
Keywordspublic participation; resource management; Resource Management Act 1991; environmental decision making; wastewater; central government; local government; environmental management; conflict management; community views
Fields of Research050205 Environmental Management
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