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Plan Change 78- is it on hold?

You may recall that Plan Change 78 is Auckland Council’s intensification plan change- including changes required by the National Policy Statement on Urban Development and incorporating the Medium Density Residential Standards (3 houses, 3 stories high etc), also called the MDRS. You can find out more about the background here.



What’re the issues?

Since notified in 2022, we’ve been providing updates on the stalled process (see for example here and here). Even now, Plan Change 78 (PC78) continues to be a moving target. We now have:


  • With the change in government, the MDRS provisions are set to become optional. Previously they were mandatory for Tier 1 Councils such as Auckland Council. Auckland’s Mayor has indicated he would like to opt out of the MDRS in some areas[1]. This could mean that Plan Change 78 would need to be fundamentally changed, or PC78 withdrawn, and a replacement plan change drafted and notified.

  • The Auckland Light Rail Project has also been cancelled- you may recall this is the “whited out” land in PC78, with a plan change previously proposed to detail the rail route and adjoining land uses. This now needs a detailed redesign and rethink.  

  • Ongoing consideration of how to manage natural hazards, having regard to the terrible weather events we’ve experience since PC78 was first written. This could involve down zoning some land, and/ or introducing more stringent rules around development in these areas.


In addition, the government has now repealed the “RMA replacement Acts”- the Natural Built and Environment Act and the Spatial Planning Act. We’ve yet to see what the “new” RMA replacement will be.


This all means that the future and content of Plan Change 78 is more unclear than ever.


Auckland Council seeking clarity

Earlier in February 2024, Auckland Council wrote to the Minister of Housing Infrastructure, Resource Management Reform, Hon Chris Bishop, seeking:

  • A further one-year extension to the Intensification Plan Change process. This would result in the hearings on PC78 being paused while the government amended legislation (such as formally making the MDRS optional) and for the Council to assess the implications of those changes.

  • Changes to the related legislation to allow:

    • The plan change to be withdrawn in whole or in part,

    • To allow the Council to make development in natural hazard areas more restrictive than it is now,

    • Make it clear that the MDRS is optional.


As yet, there has bene no response to these requests (at least, none published). They will clearly have a large impact on many future developments, and anyone with an interest in developing land in Auckland should keep a close eye on this.



What happens now?

For right now, it's business as usual. Many sites are still unable to use the PC78 provisions anyway, for example where a Qualifying Matter is present, and development is based on the usual Auckland Unitary Plan provisions. This will continue until PC78 is progressed, withdrawn or changed.


If you are developing in Auckland and relying on the Plan Change 78 provisions, you will need to be very mindful of timings and the status of PC78. Remember that building and resource consent applications are assessed based on the provisions that apply at the time- not what applied when you were doing your design.


Got a development in mind?

With all these ongoing changes happening its important to use a skilled and experienced planning professional. With over 60 combined years of resource consenting experience, including over 35 years of processing resource consents for Councils, you can rely on our advice.


Contact us on hello@planningplus.co.nz or (09) 427 9966 to discuss your next project.



Hannah Thomson is Director of Planning Plusand 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.

 

Disclaimer

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.


© Planning Plus Ltd 2024

 


[1] Auckland Council letter to Hon Chris Bishop, dated 1/2/2024

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