District Plans are the documents prepared under the Resource Management Act that control what land-use activities are permitted or will require consent in the district the plan relates to, and why.
This makes them fundamentally important if you are intending a development be it large or small.
Ideally District Plans regulate how "the community" envisages land within the district will be used during the life of the plan (10 years) and can even go so far as to make particular land-uses impossible in particular areas.
These features make the process of plan reviews (including variations and changes, which are amendments to specific parts of District Plans) extremely important in terms of providing for the ongoing protection of existing neighbourhoods and uses or the framework for further development, its nature and their extent.
The Christchurch City Council effectively completed its District Plan review in 2017. Due to the special nature of their process, and features of the order in council from the Government that authorised it, it is now beyond challenge (by way of further plan changes) until 2022 for the most part. How the plan operates in practice is still being explored and, over time, tested but its effect on any particular use or activity can be benign or profound.
You should consult the plan yourself in the first instance, or seek professional assistance, if you intend any activity or, especially prior to the purchase of land, to see what you can or might be able to do with your land.
Meanwhile, districts around Christchurch are instigating or implementing the reviews of their own District Plans. The Ashburton District Council completed their 2nd generation District Plan in 2014. But the Selwyn, Waimakariri, Hurunui, Timaru and Kaikoura District Councils are at various stages of their own reviews. This ranges from early scoping and review of the performance of their existing plans to preparation, prior to notification, of their proposed District Plan provisions.
If you own land, or carry out business or other activities within Canterbury, you might benefit from knowing what stage of the District Plan review cycle your local Council has reached. District Plan reviews include full public submission and hearing phases. Important matters can even be appealed to the Environment Court. But once a plan is operative the opportunities for change reduce or can become prohibitively expensive. Such options include resource consents (if the objectives and policies of the plan allow) and plan changes during the life of a plan.
For the most part, the best opportunity to influence the content of a plan is at an early stage. You may be able to comment on structure plans, or plan performance reviews, or as part of consultation generally. But even if you miss those stages you will still be able to submit on the notified plan, make further submissions on issues and ideas raised by others and be heard at plan hearings in order to press your case.
You may be interested in a point of detail or of principle, or a matter of individual or general significance. But your best chance of influencing the outcomes and content of District Plans is to get involved and earlier tends to be better.
Our Resource Management Team can assist you with information on the status of District Plans and plan reviews, how they might affect you, and how you can get involved in that process.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.