Changes to the permitting process

 Following a quarterly meeting to strengthen coordination and management of the permitting process for development, the National Environment Service, Te Marae Ora and Infrastructure Cook Islands have agreed to reduce the number of copies of building plans required for the process to get approval to build.

For over a decade, the building process has required four copies of the building plans with each agency keeping a copy. Now, only two copies will be required from 1st July 2024. “Modern technology allows us to keep electronic copies and we want to reduce the cost to the applicant where we can” says a spokesperson for the work.

This work is part of a larger piece of work to improve development practices. “There is a raft of legislative updates happening across agencies such as a new Health Bill, an Environment Bill, Building Bill, Solid and Hazardous Waste Bill and Infrastructure Regulations. While these new pieces of legislation, regulations and standards are under development, we are taking this time to reflect on governance as well” says the spokesperson.

Two workshops last year looked at the kind of development rules that we should have and the governance of the permitting system. The workshop on development rules identified the problems seen across the landscape for example soils being washed into lagoons.  Participants then worked backwards to identify the causes and from there, the solutions. For example, employing sediment and erosion control practices and controlling vegetation clearance reduces soil erosion and therefore sedimentation of the lagoon.

The second workshop was to consider bringing the three regulatory divisions under a single roof due to the issues that arise from having the divisions at three separate locations. At that stage, all three agencies decided not to make this move yet but to work on the issues which are aimed at improving efficiencies and monitoring of both the process and developments. A first change for the public is to reduce the building plans to just two for the building permit process. Other changes are to internal processes which don’t affect the pubic.

“We look forward to continuing improvements to our process and our development guidelines and will communicate these to the public over time” says the spokesperson.