MinterEllisonRuddWatts Partners Bianca Tree and Rachel Devine discuss the new national planning standards, the first set of which come into effect tomorrow. The standards aim to improve the consistency of council plans and policy statements.
The Minister for the Environment, David Parker, has released the first set of planning standards which come into force tomorrow, Friday, 3 May 2019. The planning standards are a set of national rules aimed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the planning system. They are designed to make regional policy statements, regional plans, district plans and combined plans under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) more consistent with each other, easier to use and faster to make.
The planning standards have been adopted following a consultation process that included presentations, workshops and hui, public submissions and collaborative work by the Ministry for the Environment with councils and key stakeholders. Our alert commenting on the notified planning standards can be viewed here.
The planning standards have addressed many of the issues raised through the consultation process, including providing more time for them to be implemented. The Ministry also recognises that implementation to achieve the desired consistency is crucial, and intends to provide guidance, work-shops and one-on-one council support where necessary.
It is also proposed that the planning standards be reviewed within six years. However, depending on the number of councils that implement the standards in the next few years, it would be beneficial to undertake a review earlier to ensure that they are fit for purpose and will achieve the desired outcomes before being implemented more widely.
What are the planning standards?
The first set of planning standards address the structure and form of plans, set national definitions and require plans to be accessible through an online ePlan. The planning standards address matters that must be standardised across all plans, while enabling the detailed content of plans to be prepared and confirmed through the RMA plan making process. The standards include the chapters to be included, their order, zone names and descriptions, definitions, and mapping tools.
When will the planning standards be implemented?
The implementation timeframes have changed to allow more time for implementation and for a more nuanced approach for different councils, planning documents and standards. These include:
- all councils must meet basic electronic accessibility and functionality requirements before 3 May 2020;
- regional councils have three years to adopt the standards for their regional policy statements, 10 years for their regional plans;
- unitary councils have 10 years to adopt the planning standards; and
- city/district councils have five years to adopt the planning standards, with seven years for the definitions standard. Councils who have recently completed a plan change have seven years, and nine years for definitions;
Different timeframes also apply for online interactive plans. These include:
- local authorities generally have five years, though some have seven;
- all regional councils and unitary councils, and city/district councils with under 15,000 ratepayers have 10 years to comply with the requirements.
Councils will be able to implement the majority of the planning standards without going through a normal RMA plan change process (for example, notification, submissions and hearings). An exception to this is the Zone Framework Standard where a council will need to undertake a plan change as this standard allows for councils to pick and choose from a number of zones which are unlikely to completely align with existing zones.
In practice, with the new implementation times, it is likely that councils will implement the planning standards as part of their next plan review process (including Auckland Council). If a council undertakes a full plan review within its implementation timeframe, the new plan must meet the planning standards when it is notified for submissions. Any aspect of the plan change that comes from the planning standards cannot be changed through the submissions process.
While the planning standards are likely to make policy statements, regional plans and district plans more useable, accessible and easy to prepare, their implementation will be phased in slowly. It will be essential for the Ministry to provide the appropriate support to councils to ensure that the implementation of the standards is consistent and that a review is undertaken at an appropriate time.
MinterEllisonRuddWatts Partner Bianca Tree is a specialist in resource management and environmental law. She provides advice on all aspects of the Resource Management Act 1991 and related legislation. She has experience across a broad range of development projects and environmental issues, including in the commercial, industrial, infrastructure, aquaculture, forestry and energy sectors. Bianca’s clients value her knowledge of their business and her clear commercial advice on resource consent and planning process. Bianca has extensive experience of the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan, with direct involvement in the regional policy statement, business, transport, heritage and air quality chapters. She also acted for several clients to achieve an uplift in zoning or area specific precinct controls. Bianca also has experience in the related fields of the Public Works Act and the Local Government Act, including development contributions and private development agreements. Contact Bianca at [email protected] or connect via LinkedIn .
MinterEllisonRuddWatts Partner Rachel Devine provides advice on all aspects of environmental and resource management law for private and public sector clients – from design through to approval, implementation and operation. Rachel has advised extensively on requirements for resource consents, including major industrial and infrastructure projects, and implications of planning requirements. She has significant experience in obtaining complex environmental and project approvals for developers, and advises on other environmental issues including pollution licensing and contaminated land. Her commercial experience means Rachel can provide practical, down-to-earth solutions to environmental problems in any context – corporate transactions, planning projects or site management. In recognition of her environmental expertise, Rachel is President of the New Zealand Resource Management Law Association. Contact Rachel at [email protected] or connect via LinkedIn .