Many of you will have been eagerly watching the progress of proposed Plan Change 78, also called the intensification plan change. This is the plan change that enables up to three dwellings on most urban sites without needing resource consent, and more flexible development standards (called “Medium Density Residential Standards” or “MDRS”)). You can find out more about the plan change here.
With submissions closed and hearings arranged, it seemed things were on track for a busy year of hearing in 2023 with decisions made early in 2024. The process and timeframes are now much less certain.
Why the change?
As Claire suggested in her blog in February (here), the weather events in January/ February are having an impact on resource consent processing and the proposed Plan Change 78 (PC78) process. With widespread flooding, slips, unstable land and significant damage to infrastructure, there are many issues that need to be addressed, and this does impact on future development.
Auckland Council sought a timeframe extension from the Minister for the Environment for the PC78 process, to allow time for detailed investigations on natural hazards and flooding as a result of these weather events, and consideration of the impacts that this will have on development. It’s likely that at least some of the provisions of PC78 will change to address the issues these weather events highlighted, and to take into account the results of the further investigations that Auckland Council intends to undertake.
Originally decisions on PC78 were required to be made by 31 March 2024. The Council sought a 12-month extension to this. We received advice on 13 April that the 12-month extension has been granted (until 31 March 2025) by the Minister for the Environment. This is to allow for the further investigations and consideration of the impact of this on land use planning shown in PC78.
What else did the Minister say?
In his 6 April 2023 letter approving the extension request, Hon David Parker also noted:
scope of Councils investigations should include blue green corridors in flood- prone areas,
A water sensitive design approach to urban development will enable improved management of flood risk. This is also referred to as a “sponge city”,
There is concern about the amount and quality of reserve and open spaces provided for in both existing and greenfield developments,
The Council should consider stronger controls in the Auckland Unitary Plan to prevent large impermeable areas such as driveways, carpads and terraces in new and existing sites,
Auckland Unitary Plan controls should be used alongside non- regulatory measures to encourage increased site permeability through private and community- based revegetation schemes,
“There are opportunities for urban development patterns to achieve multiple outcomes. Enabling higher levels of intensification in resilient areas places less pressure on hazard prone areas, allowing these areas to function as accessible green and natural spaces for the community”
The Minister expects that the additional time be used to “prioritise planning decisions that improve housing affordability. This will enable more people to live and work in areas close to centres and public transport, and where density is supported by appropriate stormwater infrastructure to ensure communities are safe and resilient to the impacts of climate change.”
These are all issues which you should consider as part of your project design, and the Ministers comments highlight that more Unitary Plan requirements in this regard are likely to be introduced.
The Independent Hearings Panel (IHP), who are managing the PC78 hearing/ recommendation process, have confirmed they’re considering the implications of this extension on the PC78 hearing process and schedule they’d already established. The IHP will provide advice on what’s going to happen with the hearings, and the related timeframes. The PC78 process will however be delayed, and this could impact on projects you’re working on or projects that had been on hold waiting for the PC78 decisions.
However, in many cases, the Auckland Unitary Plan (AUP) as it exists provides for a reasonable level of development. If your development infringes Auckland Unitary Plan rules or standards it may be that you would still have good planning arguments that could be made as part of a resource consent application, even without PC78. You should discuss these with your planner.
What rules apply?
Essentially the extension means the status quo will continue for longer. Plan Change 78 will continue to have immediate legal effect in relation to some developments. These developments must meet all of the following:
Three or less dwellings (or alterations and additions),
The site is zoned Residential – Mixed Housing Urban Zone or Residential – Terrace Housing and Apartment Buildings Zone,
The proposal is not within the Auckland Light Rail corridor,
Proposed Plan Change 78 says the proposal is a permitted activity,
Proposed Plan Change 78 incorporates the MDRS into the relevant residential zone,
The proposal complies with MDRS,
There are no qualifying matters applying to the development site (and the site is not a new residential zone).
In all other cases, the existing rules and Standards in the Auckland Unitary Plan will continue to apply, and the existing resource consent triggers will remain. If you’ve been waiting for PC78 to become operative to progress your project, discuss this latest change with your planner. As indicated above, there may be good planning arguments that could see your development progress now.
If you have a development that’s affected by PC78 timing, get in contact so we can discuss the best consent strategy with you. Our experienced team of planners provide reliable advice and will help make the resource consent process easier for you. You can contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or (09) 427 9966.
Hannah Thomson is Director of Planning Plus™ and has over 20 years of resource management experience working in both local government and the private sector. This includes five years at Rodney District Council in roles including Senior Planner and Team Leader. Hannah has a wide range of experience including commercial, rural, residential and coastal development and subdivision on small to large scales and appearances at both Council and Environment Court as an expert witness for mediation and hearings. Hannah has assisted Councils with policy development and has also assisted private individuals with submissions to Council.
Hannah holds the qualifications of BSc (Environmental Science) and Master of Applied Science (Environmental Management), is a Member (Int) of the New Zealand Planning Institute and Secretary of the New Zealand Planning Institute Auckland Branch Committee. Hannah is also a member of the Resource Management Law Association.
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.
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