top of page

Designation Outline Plans- What are they?

Updated: Feb 20

Notice of Requirement- Designation- Outline Plans… that’s a lot of planning jargon! Understanding what these are and what they mean can be confusing.

This is the third blog in our series on this topic, helping you understand the processes and what all these terms mean. You can find out more about Notices of Requirement and Designations here. In this blog, we will discuss what Outline Plans are and the assessment process. Outline Plans are related to the actual physical works, and come after the Notice of Requirement process, and its confirmation as a designation in the District Plan. The general process is shown below.


What is a designation?

A designation is like a “spot zoning” over a site or a route that is to be used for a public work (e.g., roads, busway, schools etc) in the future. The ‘spot zoning’ authorises the Requiring Authority’s (such as Auckland Transport, Ministry of Education etc.) work and related activity on the site/ route without the need for land use resource consent from the Council. Some other resource consents (regional resource consents) are still required.

Once a designation is included in a district plan (the Auckland Unitary Plan in the case of Auckland), a land use resource consent is no longer required for Requiring Authorities to undertake the works as long as what’s proposed is within the scope of the designation. At this stage (the designation stage), there are limited opportunities for public involvement in the processes or associated work.

What are Outline Plans?

Designations are used as a long-term planning tool and it may be many years before construction works begin, due to issues such as demand for the service/ works, funding availability and the land acquisition processes. This means that at the Notice of Requirement assessment time, detailed design has often not been completed.

Detailed design is undertaken much closer to the actual construction time. The design is provided to the Council and assessed as part of the Outline Plan process. Outline Plans must be submitted by the Requiring Authority to the Council. It provides the opportunity for the Council to request changes prior to construction.

What must be included in an Outline Plan?

An Outline Plan must include:

· The height, shape and bulk of the public work, project, or work; and

· Location of the public work, project or work on the site; and

· The finished contour of the site; and

· The vehicular access, circulation and parking provisions; and

· Proposed landscaping; and

· Any other matters to avoid, remedy or mitigate adverse effects on the environment.

There are some circumstances in which an outline plan may not be required. The Requiring Authority may request that the Council waives the need for an Outline Plan if it believes that it is not necessary.

What does the assessment process involve?

Once an Outline Plan is submitted to the Council, the Council reviews the following:

  • That the Outline Plan has been submitted by the correct Requiring Authority;

  • That the designation has not lapsed;

  • Whether the project or works proposed are within the purpose of the designation and complies with the conditions relevant to the designation;

  • All information required under Section 176A(3) RMA (copied above) is contained within the Outline Plan.

Following the assessment, the Council may request changes to the Outline Plan within 20 working days. If there are no requests made, the Outline Plan is approved and works within the designation area can occur. Other resource consents may be required for the work (such as regional resource consents).

There is no provision for the general public to be involved in the Outline Plan assessment. This illustrates the importance of getting involved at the Notice of Requirement phase at the beginning, if you have concerns with what’s proposed.

If the Notice of requirement has been publicly notified, or you have been identified as an affected party, we recommend you consider making a submission to detail your concerns and so you stay involved in the formal process. You should also discuss this with your planner.

Want to know more about the designation or submission processes?

If you want more information on the Notice of Requirement and designation process or the submission process, take a look at our blogs here.

Have a development in mind?

If you have a development in mind, give our experienced team a call to discuss. We have 70 years of combined experience and will give you realistic and reliable advice on your development projects. We also have a large network of industry contacts and will make sure we get the right team for your specific project. Give our experienced team a call on (09) 427 9966 or e-mail

Mary Zhou is a Planner at Planning Plus®. Mary has been part of the Planning Plus team since 2021 and has a real passion and drive for all things planning. Mary has experience with a variety of projects including rural and urban land use, subdivision and feasibility analysis.

DISCLAIMER: As with all our blogs this information is preliminary in nature only and we have endeavoured to ensure it is correct at the time of writing. It is not intended to substitute for your own investigations or obtaining specific advice on your proposal from professionals. Planning Plus LtdTM is not liable in any way for any errors or omissions.

© Planning Plus Ltd 2024

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page