Have you been watching the progress of proposed Plan Change 78 (PC78), 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.
In September 2023 we gave an update on PC78 progress- you can access that update here. We outlined that the Independent Hearings Panel’s had directed that Auckland Council report back to them on their work program for the light rail and natural hazards variations by 30 October 2023. Auckland Council have now reported back, but not in the way we were expecting back in September.
Impact of the elections
With the elections and the imminent change in government, the planning landscape has become more uncertain. For example, the National party’s 100—Day Action Plan includes:
“Repeal Labour’s RMA 2.0 laws”.
“Cancel Labour’s Auckland Light Rail project”.
“Give councils flexibility over Medium density Residential Standards (MDRS) standards”.
This directly relates to some of the contents of Plan Change 78 as the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2021 required Tier 1 Councils to make changes to their planning documents to enable more development. In Auckland this included permitting three houses on almost all urban sites and more lenient development controls.
Councils had almost no flexibility in how or where these rules applied due to the requirements of the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2021. This new legislation was unexpected, and there was no ability to plan for the changes in advance (for example via funding infrastructure etc).
Act and New Zealand First also have policies regarding intensification and the Resource Management reform, seeking to change the current direction and repeal some of the related legislation. Cumulatively, this means there is likely to be change in the near future in relation to both overarching resource management reform, and issues that directly relate to Plan Change 78, what is allows for and where it applies.
The impact on Plan Change 78
On 30 October 2023 Auckland Council requested that hearings are not scheduled for the Auckland Light Rail Corridor (ALRC) or natural hazards and also sought a future reporting back date of 9 February 2024. This is understood to be due to the uncertainty around what will happen as a result of the new government and changes it will make- in particular in relation to the MDRS requirements and Auckland’s light rail. Other relevant issues include the impact of the National Policy Statement for Natural Hazard Decision Making, that engagement regarding natural hazards has yet to be undertaken, and that Notices of Requirement related to the light rail corridor have not been lodged (previously expected in August 2023).
With the new policies of the incoming government, there is potential for large scale changes to Plan Change 78, such as the removal of the light rail project, removal of sites and land areas from the upzoning suggested in PC78, changes to the more lenient MDRS development controls and more restrictive rules related to natural hazards. Because of the government changes, Auckland Council’s Planning, Environment and Parks Committee will not be able to provide Council staff with clear direction on the two variations until at least its first meeting in February 2024. Auckland Council have indicated that they intend to discuss these issues with the incoming government.
Due to the issues mentioned above, Auckland Council has requested that the Independent Hearing Panel does not proceed to schedule the hearings in relation to submissions on the ALRC and natural hazards and that a further reporting date is set for 9 February 2024, after the first meeting of the Council’s Planning, Environment and Parks Committee 2024.
What’s the Hearing Panel’s response to Auckland Council’s request?
While the IHP has taken into consideration Auckland Council’s reasoning for the request, they have declined it at this time. This is due to the Hearing Panel’s statutory and Ministerial requirement to complete their work and make their decisions by 31 March 2025. These statutory requirements may change as a result of policy changes with the incoming government, but in this interim period the legal requirements are still the same. The hearings schedule is expected to be released within the next two weeks, at the time of writing.
Hearings on the Auckland Light Rail and Natural Hazards will be scheduled from May 2024, however, the schedule may change depending on the outcome of discussions with the incoming government as noted above. The IHP have encouraged Auckland Council take up these issues with central government as a “matter of priority”.
It’s a case of “watch this space” at the moment, but there will undoubtedly be wind back from the more permissive provisions that the MDRS sought and changes related to the light rail corridor. Keep an eye out for further updates on our social media and in blogs on our website, www.planningplus.co.nz.
How does it affect your development?
There is a lot of change about to happen, and it will affect sites and developments in different ways. Its more important than ever to get planning advice from a professional who knows what’s happening, when and its impacts.
If you have a development in mind, get in contact with our experienced team. With over 60 years of combined experience, including over 35 years processing resource consent applications for Council’s, you can trust our planning advice.
You can contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or (09) 427 9966.
Hannah Thomson is Director of Planning Plus™ and has over 23 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 Masters 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.
Please remember that the advice in this blog is general in nature and based on information and advice available at the time of writing. We recommend you get your own planning advice. As with all our blogs this information is preliminary in nature only and we have used our best endeavours to ensure it is correct at the time of writing. It is not intended to substitute for your own investigations or obtaining specific advice from professionals. Planning Plus LtdTM is not liable in any way for any errors or omissions.
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