An Auckland Update
We thought it would be worth providing an update on a number of topical matters that are on the horizon.
Several of these matters will have a bearing on the future of Auckland, including:
- the Auckland Spatial Plan;
- the draft Auckland Unitary Plan:
- the development contribution policy; and
- RMA reforms.
The Auckland Plan
The Auckland Council released its draft spatial plan last year, along with a number of supporting policy documents. The spatial plan, which is referred to as the Auckland Plan, is intended to guide Auckland’s journey to becoming the world’s most liveable city by 2040.
A key objective of the Plan is to deliver a ‘quality compact Auckland’. One of the more controversial methods for achieving this objective was a proposed 75/25 split between growth in existing urban areas and growth in new ‘greenfield’ land. However, the Council has recently announced that it is reconsidering this method, with an indication that it may now adopt a 60/40 split.
The Council has also stated that it will introduce a range of tools to encourage further urban intensification, including significant ‘up zoning’ of land to allow greater residential densities, particularly around existing centres and strategic corridors. The challenge will be to achieve high quality urban outcomes despite increasing density.
The success of the Auckland Plan will be dependent on the implementation tools and funding mechanisms that support the document. These include a clear and concise Unitary Plan, and a development contribution and infrastructure funding system that is effective and equitable.
Fragmentation of land remains a major constraint to integrated development. We believe that there is a compelling case for the establishment of an Auckland urban development agency with the power to compulsorily acquire and aggregate land for urban redevelopment projects. Such an agency would work in partnership with the private sector to unlock the potential of land in strategic locations within Auckland.
The Council intends to adopt the final version of the Auckland Plan in April 2012.
Auckland Unitary Plan
If the Auckland Plan is the visioning document for the City, the Unitary Plan is the means to implement the land use and transport planning that will give life to the vision. It replaces the district and regional plans of the eight former local authorities that existed in Auckland.
The attached photo, showing the current stack of Auckland planning documents, provides some sense of the enormity of the challenge!
The Council has stated that it has adopted the following key principles for the development of the Unitary Plan:
- outcomes focused
- regulation in proportion to the scale of potential impact.
The development of the Unitary Plan presents an opportunity to streamline a range of planning rules, including the associated development engineering codes. At the same time, it will be important to recognise those unique and special parts of Auckland that require an area-specific planning response.
In our experience, people want certainty when it comes to knowing what they can do with their property. The Council will have the difficult task of drafting rules that provide for greater certainty while retaining sufficient flexibility to encourage innovative development that enhances urban amenity. We consider that it may be appropriate to draft the rules in a way that enables most projects to follow a standard consenting process, while a more design-focused approach might be required for strategically significant projects.
The Council aims to have a draft of the Unitary Plan prepared by December 2012, with public notification to follow in the first half of 2013. In the meantime, existing district and regional statutory plans will continue to apply. These plans will remain relevant for some time after 2013.
It is important that landowners understand the implications of the Unitary Plan, and the impact of the new rules on their property. The submission process can be utilised to protect existing interests, or enable further opportunities.
Further information on the Unitary Plan is available at:
Development Contribution Policy
A new integrated policy on development contributions and financial contributions will be put in place as part of the Council’s Long Term Plan 2012-2022.
The Council has indicated that the proposed development contributions policy would include the following:
- Alignment with the Auckland Plan
- Commonality across the Auckland Region
- Clarity of approach
- Minimal funding areas
- An integrated capital works programme
- New growth projections for the region
- New development contribution charges
- Outcomes focused for Auckland
The activities funded by development contributions include open space acquisition, stormwater infrastructure, transport infrastructure, and local and regional recreation facilities. Watercare charges are not within the scope of the development contributions review, and would continue to be applied separately.
The proposed policy establishes regional or sub-regional funding areas to respond to growth demand. These large funding areas create averaging, with less proximity of assets to particular development. Higher density residential activities are proposed to have a reduced unit charge.
The proposed policy seeks to make the contribution payable at a range of stages, including at issue of a section 224c certificate for a subdivision or upon issue of a building consent. Further flexibility is sought from some in the development community, with a request that the policy provide for payment to be delayed until the Code Compliance Certificate is issued. There seems to be a logical basis for this request, particularly for commercial developments, as occupation and use of buildings cannot occur until the CCC has been issued.
The current development contribution policies of the former councils will continue to apply until 1 July 2012. For consents lodged on or before 30 June 2012, but granted after 1 July 2012, it is proposed that the lower of the old and new charges will apply. For development lodged on or after 1 July 2012, the new policy would apply. The proposed policy includes a discount system for the provision of Low Impact Design (for stormwater management), and an ability to seek refunds for the provision of public assets over and above minimum requirements.
Attendees at the consultation workshops sought transparency in the methodology and assumptions that will underpin the development contribution charges, together with a clear understanding of the infrastructure that will be funded through development contributions.
Further information on the development contributions policy is available at the following link:
The closing date for submissions to the proposed development contributions policy is 4pm on Friday 23 March 2012.
The Government is due to consider a range of possible changes to the RMA in 2012, as part of the second phase of its reforms. A technical advisory group (TAG) has been established to review the principles (sections 6 and 7) of the RMA. The TAG, chaired by Auckland barrister Alan Dormer, was requested to report back to Cabinet with recommendations by February 2012.
It is also likely that other initiatives to be considered will include clarifying the relationship of the Auckland Plan with the Unitary Plan, and the role of the Auckland Plan in determining resource consent applications.
There is a possibility that the Government could establish special procedures to deal with the hearing and consideration of the Unitary Plan. While we note that a streamlined plan hearing process can have many advantages, this does have the potential to constrain outcomes that are sought by submitters, particualry if any appeals are restricted only to points of law.
The Government has also signaled that it wishes to facilitate the efficient processing of notified applications, by requiring that decisions be made within six months.
It is proposed that a second Resource Management Amendment Bill containing the Government’s proposals for reform will be introduced to Parliament in late 2012.