Submissions on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan ("Unitary Plan") closed on 28 February 2014, following notification of the Unitary Plan on 30 September 2013. While the Auckland Council has not yet released figures regarding the number of submissions received, if the number is anywhere close to the 22,000 pieces of "feedback" received on the draft Unitary Plan (which was open for informal consultation from March to May 2013), the Council will undoubtedly have a lot of paperwork on its hands.
Moving forward, the Council has up to 60 working days to prepare a summary of submissions. Once the summary of submissions is publicly notified, there will be a 30 working day further submission period. Further submissions are an important step in the process as they enable submitters to gain scope where others have raised new issues. Lodging a further submission also ensures that submitters will be notified if matters are appealed later in the process. Further submissions are expected to be due in mid-2014.
From there, the Hearing Panel (chaired by Judge Kirkpatrick) will continue to progress the development of the Unitary Plan. The Panel has a wide range of powers during the pre-hearing and hearing stage, including the power to permit cross-examination at the hearing, require or invite submitters to attend pre-hearing meetings, and direct pre-circulation of evidence and expert caucusing. We expect that a variety of pre-hearing measures will be employed in the latter half of 2014, including mediations, to narrow the issues before hearings commence in 2015.