The Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee has deferred the date that it was due to report back on the Land Transport Management Bill.
Local authorities will await with interest the amended Bill, as reported back by the Select Committee. Submissions on the Bill identified a number of areas where the Bill was perceived to require improvement.
One area in which we hope there has been change is in relation to the introduction of an integrated and streamlined approach to local authority decision-making on land transport issues.
Local authorities are already subject to statutory requirements regarding decision-making in the Local Government Act 2002 (LGA 2002). Much has been written already on those requirements (particularly in relation to the consultation requirements) and the general consensus seems to be that those statutory requirements are comprehensive, extensive and prescriptive.
While it is accepted and supported that local authorities should fully engage with communities and affected parties, it would seem to make sense that local authorities should be able to use one statutory procedure for decision-making, rather than being required to expend additional time and resources on complying with different statutory and common law requirements in relation to essentially the same decision.
Whether or not one agrees with the prescriptive approach of the LGA 2002 regarding decision-making, the LGA 2002 is the logical place for a single generic decision-making process for local authorities. It is difficult to envisage a significant land transport decision (particularly in relation to a proposed toll road) which would not require extensive consultation under the LGA 2002. There seems little justification for adding to those comprehensive requirements in the Bill.
The Bill, as presently drafted, does provide some recognition of other statutory decision-making procedures (for example, in clause 33(4) in relation to regional council consultation on its annual plan and regional land transport strategy).
However, the Bill could go further to recognise and integrate those procedures. For example, it is not clear whether the Bill's requirements for consultation with various public authorities and others when a local authority is preparing its land transport programme (clause 15) is intended to add further requirements to the decision-making process a local authority would follow in making a decision to adopt a land transport strategy.
If the Bill explicitly recognised other statutory decision-making procedures relating to land transport (not only under the LGA 2002 but also the Resource Management Act 1991 and the Land Transport Act 1998) and integrated (rather than added to) those procedures then the potential is reduced for the procedural requirements of the Bill to result in delays and additional costs for proposed land transport projects, as well as reducing potential uncertainty arising from judicial review under different and perhaps inconsistent statutory procedures.
It seems that the real focus of any decision-making regime in the Bill should be at the central government/funder and local authority level to facilitate comprehensive, co-ordinated and sensible decisions about land transport management. Local authority decision-making processes (particularly in terms of consultation between a local authority and affected community interests) should be left to the LGA 2002 - which will be difficult enough on its own!
This publication is necessarily brief and general in nature. You should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication.