Development Assessment Panels

Role of Development Assessment Panels

In July 2001 the Development Act 1993 was amended to require all Councils to establish a local Council Development Assessment Panel (CDAP), which was intended to supersede the Council as the planning authority for the district.

CDAPs are quite distinct from other functions of Council as their power is generated solely from the Development Act.

Under the 2001 amendments, a Council could delegate any power or function in the development assessment process and CDAPs had, accordingly, operated under the powers delegated to them by the ‘parent’ Council. (NB: delegations could also have been made to officers of Council). Councils also had an unfettered discretion as to who and how many they appointed to be on their particular CDAP.

The 2001 amendments provided a mechanism for the establishment of Regional Development Assessment Panels (RDAPs) on a voluntary basis. A RDAP can only be formed between adjoining Councils and may be established by Councils such that the range of decisions made by the Regional Development Assessment Panel is limited to specific types of development.

DAPs were revisited by the Government in 2006 through further legislative amendments, which made it mandatory for Councils to delegate all development assessment decisions (where Council is the relevant authority) to either:

  • a delegated officer or
  • a local CDAP or
  • a Regional DAP

Powers could also be further sub-delegated (eg from a CEO to a planning officer) but they may not be delegated back to the Council itself.

The other major change was in the composition of CDAPs. The amendments required CDAPs to have 7 members but the Minister can approve membership of 9 in the Metropolitan area, or 5 or 9 outside the Metropolitan area. The makeup of the members was also directed, and membership of a CDAP must now consist of -

  • an independent/specialist Presiding Member (who is not a member of Council or Council staff)
  • at least half of the remaining members being independent/specialists (ie not a member of Council or Council staff)
  • up to half of the remaining members being elected members of Council or Council staff

The amendments did not specify the particular skills or experience these specialist members need to have, as the experience required will vary from area to area. Councils themselves may therefore decide who they appoint as specialist members.

CDAP members can be appointed for up to two years and be reappointed thereafter.

The 2006 provisions confirmed that Councils are responsible for the costs, liabilities and actions of the CDAP that they have appointed.

Councils have to make decisions on most forms of development in their area as the designated relevant authority (as defined by the Development Act).

CDAPs role is to act as a planning authority and to assess development applications. The Panel does not act as a policy making body or have a governance role. It operates under the Development Act and not the Local Government Act and, as stated, its sole purpose is to assist the Council to exercise or perform its powers and functions under the development assessment part of the Development Act.

Development Assessment Panels FAQ

Every Council has a Development Assessment Panel (and in some cases a Council will have a Regional Development Assessment Panel in lieu of a Council DAP).

1.    Can Full Council make planning decisions?

The Development Act, 1993 requires that Councils must either delegate development assessment decisions to Council staff or the DAP or RDAP.  Full Council can not make a decision on a development application.

2.    What is the composition of a DAP?

A Council DAP typically is comprised of three councilors and three persons that are not councilors or employees of the Council. A fourth person who not is a Councilor or Council employee is also included as the presiding member.

3.    Do all members of a DAP have to vote?

All members of DAP’s have voting rights. If a vote is tied the presiding member has the casting vote.

4.    How do DAP’s make a planning decision?

When considering a development application a DAP makes decisions by assessing proposals against the Development Plan. In doing so, it weighs up the pros and cons by referring to the relevant provisions of the Development Plan and then makes a judgement on whether or not the development meets and satisfies planning principles.

Further details on DAP’s can be find at the following links:

Operational Points of Interest

No formal selection process for CDAP members has been set out in the Act. Nonetheless, most Councils tend to publically advertise for expressions of interest from members of the community and make a selection accordingly. The Minister has stressed that the people selected must be truly independent and impartial. There is a statutory requirement that the names of all the members of a Panel once appointed must be published in a newspaper circulating within the relevant area.

CDAPs are responsible under the 2006 amendments to establish their own operating procedures. Agendas and minutes of meetings must be publically available.

Code of Conduct for CDAP Members

The 2006 amendments also enabled the Minister to introduce a Code of Conduct for members of a CDAP (and a Regional DAP). Pursuant to Section 21A of the Development Act, the Minister adopted such a Code in February 2007, which deals with such matters as behaviour, conflict of interest, relationships with applicants/representors, public comment and how breaches of the Code are to be dealt with.

It is important that planners understand that this Code covers not only members of a Panel but also officers of Council exercising delegated powers. For more information, see the Code of Conduct.

For more information on Development Assessment Panels, see the LGA’s Development Assessment Panel Guide.

Relationship Between the Planner and CDAPs

Before a CDAP makes a decision to approve or refuse a proposed development, a Council planner usually prepares a report for the Panel, outlining their planning assessment of the proposed development. The report should include a recommendation to either approve or refuse the application.

A Council planner is obliged to give a Panel his or her professional opinion and advice regarding a development application based on an interpretation of the relevant parts of the Development Plan and their relationship with the development proposal and its setting. The planner is not an advocate for any party involved in the application or for the Council itself.