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The beginning of ‘top-down’ planning -1980 Town and Country Planning Act.

By Malcolm Campbell.

As pointed out in the previous article (The Informer, Issue 1065 page 9, there were three arms of Local Government from 1947 onward, namely the Borough and County Councils and the Catchment Boards. The Catchment Boards were not all formed at one time. In 1945 there were eleven. The Hauraki Catchment Board formed in 1947 and by 1967 there were 17 formed and effectively the Catchment Boards covered the entire New Zealand landscape. The longest river in New Zealand, the Waikato River established the Waikato Valley Authority in 1956, nine years after the Hauraki Board.

Floods in the Waikato had at times been frequent, with regular news items of people evacuated from homes in Ngaruawahia, Huntly and Ohinewai with road closures. The defences were at times unable to contain the rising water levels and large areas were inundated. The Waikato Valley Authority Board was similar in structure to the Hauraki Board in that people along the length of the river were elected. Each member was a serving councillor from County Councils and Borough Councils adjacent to the river. Hamilton City and the Ministry of Works were also represented.

This form of Local Government lasted for some years. Indeed, there was no change from this format until 1989. The Hauraki Catchment Board dealt with river works, flood pumps, stop banks, damaging erosion and so on for forty-two years. There were however very significant changes made in the way these Boards and Councils operated particularly in regard to the County Councils and Borough Councils.

Members of the community and organisations within the community in fact anyone, were invited to read and digest a Council Plan drawn up under a revamped 1980 Town and Country Planning Act. This Act replaced or reorganised earlier Town and Country Planning Acts. Realistically, few, if any, people were even aware or bothered by the earlier Acts. These plans were the first instance of ‘top-down’ planning where the Council staff authored a plan and then asked for submissions in response to the said plan. Federated Farmers in the wider area were assisted by Lawyer, Ruth Richardson, who gave a rousing address, but realistically was ineffective in stemming the tide of rules contained in The Plan.

The Plan was a mind-boggling amount of detail. There were some aspects that caused a great amount of alarm. One item in the urban area, to give an example, detailed the height of a building in the town and how to measure the height including taking into account the amount of slope if any, on the footpath in front of the building. However, the CEO of the Piako County had a real bee in his bonnet about economic businesses or farms. Another example. Two farmers A and B had farms that backed on to each other, with a large canal dividing the two blocks. Farmer A was farming two hundred acres and farmer B one hundred acres. Farmer A in the course of a conversation disclosed that he would like to downsize his operation and Farmer B said he could assist by purchasing one hundred acres off his neighbour, Farmer A. To facilitate the operation, all that was needed was a bridge across the canal. The CEO refused to allow the sale until Farmer A, who was selling, was able to ‘prove’ that his now one-hundred-acre unit, was still an economic unit. There were more of these sales; some blocks of anything between a hundred and several hundred acres, with minimal development. In every case the CEO required the services of an expert to detail what could be developed on the land to make it an ‘Economic Unit’.

Debates raged for months and months until the CEO departed to take up another position leading a planning organisation.

Caption: Malcolm Campbell.


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