New Zealand Law Society - Proposed National Policy Statement on Urban Development released

Proposed National Policy Statement on Urban Development released

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The Government has released a discussion document on a proposed National Policy Statement on Urban Development.

The document sets out the policy proposals, sample text for how they might be reflected in a national policy statement, and the rationale behind them.

It says the policy statement focuses on the role of the planning system in enabling growth and regulating land use in urban areas.

"It aims to enable growth by requiring councils to provide development capacity to meet the diverse demands of communities, address unnecessary regulatory constraints, and encourage quality urban environments. It will ensure growth is strategically planned and leads to well-functioning cities that contribute positively to people’s well-being."

A statement from Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford says the proposed statement would direct councils – particularly in the six high growth centres of Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown – to free up their planning rules while focusing on high-quality streets, neighbourhoods and communities.

The proposed policy statement would replace the National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity 2016. It says that although the 2016 statement has been an important first step towards better urban planning, "we consider that it is not sufficient to achieve the outcomes we are seeking".

The new policy statement will build on many of the existing requirements for greater development capacity, but will broaden its focus and add significant new content.

The National Policy Statement - Urban Development contains objectives and policies in four key areas:

Future Development Strategy: requires councils to carry out long-term planning to accommodate growth and ensure well-functioning cities.

Making room for growth in RMA plans: requires councils to allow for growth ‘up’ and ‘out’ in a way that contributes to a quality urban environment, and to ensure their rules do not unnecessarily constrain growth.

Evidence for good decision-making: requires councils to develop, monitor and maintain an evidence base about demand, supply and prices for housing and land, to inform their planning decisions.

Processes for engaging on planning: ensures council planning is aligned and coordinated across urban areas, and issues of concern to iwi and hapū are taken into account.

"The proposed National Policy Statement - Urban Development will help achieve the sustainable management purpose of the Resource Management Act 1991 by ensuring that urban planning enables people and communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural well-being through development that supports quality urban environments," the discussion document says.

"A National Policy Statement is the most effective means to support the system-wide, long-term changes that we need because it impacts on all RMA decision-makers and has the largest influence on local authority plans and decision-making frameworks."

The way forward

Consultation on the proposed National Policy Statement ended on 10 October 2019. 

Recommendations based on submissions will be reviewed by an independent technical advisory panel. Officials will seek agreement from Ministers to make the recommended changes, then approve the proposed National Policy Statement.

If Ministerial and Cabinet approval is given, the proposed National Policy Statement is likely to take effect during the first half of 2020.