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Plan Change 78 – where is it all up to now?

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.

Our most recent blog on the Plan Change 78 talked about the 12-month extension that was granted by Hon David Parker in relation to Auckland Council requiring more time to enable detailed investigations on natural hazards and flooding as a result of the extreme weather events in January/February 2023. You can find more information about this extension here.

So, what are the most recent updates?

Update on Plan Change 78 hearings

In April 2023, Auckland Council requested to put a pause on all of the Plan Change 78 hearings and alternative dispute resolution / expert conferencing processes. This was due in part to a planned variation to Proposed Plan Change 78, relating to natural hazards investigations the Council are undertaking. In addition, a second variation to Plan Change 78 in relation to the Auckland Light Rail corridor at the time was expected to be notified late 2023 or early 2024. Pausing the process would allow for these assessment and these changes to be made, and for hearings and expert conferencing on all of the matters to be undertaken at the same time (rather than potentially having to re-hear some issues, when the variations were notified).

The Independent Hearings Panel concluded that pausing most of the hearings was appropriate, as detailed in their Direction dated 12 May 2023, but that some topics would potentially continue. On 19 May 2023, the Independent Hearings Panel set out the hearings that can continue to be scheduled and will proceed this year. You can find a list of the topics here. A further two topics have since been added, but hearings/ expert conferencing on most of the topics remains on hold.

Status of the two variations to Plan Change 78

Natural Hazards

In terms of the variations relating to natural hazards, Auckland Council has:

  • Completed an initial investigation into January/ February 2023 flooding impacts, implications and improvements with several main areas of action recommended. These include to strengthen the provisions of the Auckland Unitary Plan, speed up community action on adaptation and to progress the 'Making Space for Water' flood risk reduction programme.

  • Prepared a separate report regarding strengthening the Auckland Unitary Plan. The report outlines:

    • the on-going work that has been occurring in relation to the AUP,

    • the work that has been, and that will need to continue to be, undertaken to understand the impacts and learnings from the 2023 weather events,

    • what the potential options are to strengthen the AUP,

    • the process within which any changes to the AUP can be achieved.

The report notes that the preliminary work undertaken to date suggests that there are potential gaps in the AUP planning framework. However, more work was needed to determine the specific changes or improvements that would be required. Data and information from the January/ February 2023 weather events was being collated and reviewed for detailed analysis (July 2023). The investigations seek to determine where the gaps may be and what changes are required in both the current regulatory and non-regulatory areas.

  • Undertaken work in relation to the ‘Making Space for Water’ programme. A paper was was reported to the Council Governing Body at its 27 July 2023 meeting. The paper contained public engagement materials, timeframes and communication channels for engagement all commencing on 3 August 2023. The purpose of the ‘Making Space for Water’ programme is primarily about informing the development of the Tamaki Makaurau Recovery Plan and Making Space for Water, but the public consultation will also assist with the progression of natural hazard changes to the Auckland Unitary Plan.

  • Council staff have completed corrections to rapid building assessment placard data to enable GIS analytics to begin to be run. These corrections have been to ensure that the placard data is spatially accurate and as a result that GIS analytics can be run to enable a more detailed review of consented developments under the AUP that were the subject of placards. Detailed project planning and the design of a draft natural hazards engagement plan is also underway (August 2023).

A Planning, Environment and Parks (PEP) Committee workshop was undertaken on 30 August to workshop the content of the draft natural hazards engagement plan. No more information is available on this at the time of writing.

Auckland Light Rail

In relation to the Auckland Light Rail variation the Council has/ is:

  • Investigating options for land uses within the corridor and around specific proposed station locations. In addition, the Council team is undertaking scenario testing and the analysis of development capacity for development in the corridor (July 2023).

  • Progressing work on the extent of walkable catchments under Policy 3(c) of the National Policy Statement on Urban Development 2020 and on some land use scenarios for different proposed station locations (August 2023).

Council workshops were also scheduled with the PEP Committee at the end of August 2023 to provide updates on the project and to discuss possible land use scenarios around some of the proposed station locations.

The Notices of Requirement for Auckland Light Rail were originally scheduled to be lodged in August 2023, and Auckland Council would then be able to progress the variation (which had been expected to be notified around February 2024). However, this has been delayed, which in turn will impact on timeframes for the Auckland Light Rail variation.

New Chair and New Panel Member

As a result of the plan change process being paused, two members of the Independent Hearings Panel (IHP), including the chair, have had to step down due to other commitments in 2024. The new IHP members are:

  • Matthew Casey (New Chair) Matthew Casey is a senior barrister and King’s Counsel with over 30 years’ experience in resource management and local government.

  • Sarah Shaw Sarah Shaw has been appointed as a Panel Member filling the spot left by Kitt Littlejohn’s resignation. Sarah has over 20 years’ experience (planning and law) in resource management, local government and public / administrative law.

Next steps

In the Independent Hearings Panel’s latest direction, they are requiring Auckland Council to report back to them on their work program for both variations by 30 October 2023. Auckland Council will also need to provide the definitive notification dates for the two variations. If not, the hearing of submissions will be scheduled by the Independent Hearings Panel so that the panel can meet the time limits imposed by the Minister for the Environment.

Where can you stay up to date?

If you want to stay updated on the status of Plan Change 78, keep an eye on the blogs on our website

Do you have more questions?

Are you unsure of how Plan Change 78 will affect your development? Get in touch with us to discuss. Our experienced team of planners provide reliable advice and will help make the resource consent process easier for you. You can contact us on or (09) 427 9966.

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.


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 2023

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