I came across the Tararua District Visitor and Walk-Cycle Strategy and Action Plan recently. One thing that struck me was the use of the word ‘enabler’ throughout. This includes with respect to the delivery of regulatory services (like resource consents).

Red carpet provider: Provide regulatory services in a way that expedites and supports visitor development proposals.

I’m a huge fan of proactive Council’s but this kind of approach demonstrates an unbelievable degree of cognitive dissonance.

The reality is that when it comes to land use, Councils are a legislatively mandated ‘disabler’. Proof of this is found is section 9 of the RMA. It states that land can be used in any manner unless it contravenes a national, regional or district rule.

An ‘enabler’ makes something possible. Enabling therefore begins with creating a more permissive RMA plan framework. True enablement means giving people the authority to do things. Only RMA plans can do this. Resource consents are all about control, not enablement.

Council’s intentionally make rules that disable activities. To suggest that Councils can or want to enable activities that they have specifically disabled is hypocrisy. The legal RMA tests applicable to resource consents cannot be overridden by LGA policies and strategies. This is where we see the frustrating, but inevitable, disconnection between words and actions.

As a developer or consultant, it may be possible to use the Council’s cognitive dissonance to your advantage. This is sometimes known as the “Ben Franklin Effect“. Asking for small favours and minor concessions during pre-application consultation could lead to greater assistance through the resource consent process.