Proposed District Plan Hearings Panel appointed 04 February 2014 A Hearings Panel has now been appointed to hear and consider submissions on the Proposed District Plan. The Panel of three includes two independent commissioners, Mark Farnsworth and Ian Munro, and Thames Ward councillor Sandra Goudie. After hearing and considering submissions the Panel will make recommendations to Council who will then make the final decisions. "We are pleased with the calibre of commissioners on the Hearings Panel" says Council's District Plan Manager Leigh Robcke. "The standard of commissioners in New Zealand is high and we have selected some very experienced, competent people." Mark Farnsworth, who has more than 24 years' experience in local government and resource management matters, will chair the Hearings Panel. "I'm really looking forward to the role and am preparing myself by getting a better feel for the Coromandel and a better understanding of the local issues," says Mr Farnsworth. "When making a submission on the Proposed District Plan tell us the essence of what you want and why," suggests Mr Farnsworth. "It's not a numbers game, it's about evidence and the quality of that evidence," he says. Members of the Hearings Panel will not be discussing any District Plan matters with the public prior to hearings. "We need to ensure that the process is fair and equitable," says Mr Farnsworth. "People have the opportunity to talk in support of their submissions at a public hearing. So when making a submission please include in it whether you want to speak to your submission or not," he says. If you need help preparing a submission or understanding the process contact the 'Friend of the Submitter,' Annette Ellis, in Customer Services on 07 868 0200. Submissions close 5 pm 14 March 2014 and the first Panel hearing will be held on 8 July 2014. About the Hearings Panel Mark Farnsworth has a long history of involvement in local government (24 years as an elected councillor) and in resource management hearings of all types - recent hearings have included: South Drury Business Park Plan Change; Auckland Central Rail Link - Notice of Requirement; Oaks on Neville Aged Care Centre; Pataua North Reclamation and Boat Ramp and Patumahoe Private Plan No 37. Mark's considerable RMA knowledge and hearing experience has been recognized nationally by appointments to the: Aquaculture Technical Advisory Group; a Ministerial Advisory Panel on Aquaculture and the Board of Inquiry for the King Salmon applications. Sandra Goudie is a former MP with more than 10 years' experience in local and national politics. Sandra has a well-grounded understanding of both the Thames-Coromandel and Hauraki Districts, and their people. Sandra's knowledge and experience, gained from an extensive involvement with community groups, organisations, and local and central government, is invaluable in her current undertaking as a Councillor for the Thames-Coromandel District Council. Ian Munro is a practicing urban planner and urban designer with work experience across the country. Ian has Masters Degrees in Planning, Urban Design, Traffic Engineering and Environmental Law, and is an accredited Hearings Commissioner. Ian's work history includes experience with Strategic and District Plans as well as extensive development consenting, for both private clients and Councils. Prior to the Proposed District Plan being notified, Ian was a member of the Council's District Plan Review Committee. Ian is familiar with Thames-Coromandel's communities and their distinct resource management challenge Removal of native trees Landowners wanting to remove native trees from their rural properties may still be able to do so without a resource consent under newly reviewed Biodiversity rules in the Proposed District Plan. Native vegetation rules in the Proposed District Plan allow for a number of situations where landowners can clear native trees, such as manuka and kanuka, without consent. Beyond the listed situations ( which can be read in the Proposed District Plan - Section 29 Biodiversity - Rules 3 and 4) Council will need to assess whether or not biodiversity values will be put at risk. Existing use rights also still apply. If landowners are already legally harvesting manuka and kanuka for firewood, for example, they will be covered under their existing use rights if the scale and area of the project is similar. If however, a new area of bush is being cleared and it is mostly native, then resource consent would be required, says District Plan Manager Leigh Robcke. "This is to ensure the Coromandel continues to retain areas of significant indigenous biodiversity," says Mr Robcke. "If indigenous vegetation is to be cleared, we need to ensure it's being done in a sustainable manner," he says. The Proposed District Plan also introduces a new rule to recognise that people need to use vegetation for sustainable purposes such as firewood or manufacturing of ti-tree oil. Sustainable use is provided for as a controlled activity, which is guaranteed resource consent, but gives the Council the opportunity to take a look at the proposal and make sure that biodiversity values are maintained. We want to get these rules right for the community. If you think they can be improved make a submission on the Proposed District Plan.