The Government has announced consultation on a new National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS), intended to replace the National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity 2016 (NPS-UDC). Although many councils are still grappling with the requirements of the existing NPS-UDC, which the Government recognises was "an important first step towards better urban planning", the Government considers that more is required to ensure NZ's cities are affordable, accessible and offer quality environments.

The proposed NPS seeks to enable growth through the provision of development capacity which meets the demands of NZ's diverse communities. The proposed NPS is intended to:

  • Give clear direction about planning for growth and how to do this well.
  • Support local government to apply more responsive, effective planning and consenting.
  • Clarify for others (including developers and community members) the intended outcomes for urban development across NZ and within communities and neighbourhoods.

As currently proposed, the NPS is far more prescriptive than existing national direction in this space.

Some key changes to the existing framework include:

  • A shift in focus to the six major urban centres, namely Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown.
  • Replacing the concept of sufficient, feasible development capacity, with a requirement for local authorities to enable at least enough development capacity that is feasible and likely to be taken up to meet the demand for dwellings and business land.
  • Future Development Strategies for 'major urban centres' must:
    • demonstrate how 'quality urban environments' will be achieved in existing and future urban areas;
    • meet residential development capacity 'bottom lines' (as opposed to 'targets'); and
    • allocate development capacity across existing and future urban areas;
  • Requirements for local authorities to have particular regard to the benefits and costs of urban development at a national, inter-regional, regional and district scale, when making or updating policies, plans and strategies (and similar requirements in respect of consenting decisions).
  • Development capacity is to be 'enabled' in the short and medium term, 'identified' in the long term, and local authorities are required to notify the Minister if the required development capacity cannot be provided.
  • Changes to the methodology for ascertaining development capacity, and changes to the responses expected of local authorities when the evidence indicates that capacity falls short.
  • The introduction of 'zone descriptions' in district plans to address the expected types and nature of development, including expected levels of amenity.
  • New analysis requirements to be demonstrated by local authorities when making planning decisions that affect the development of urban environments (including an analysis of consistency with the relevant Future Development Strategy).
  • A focus on higher-density development in certain areas, with the mandatory insertion of an objective in regional policy statements, and a policy in districts plans, to enable residential intensification (even in areas where the current zoning does not anticipate or provide for that level of density), and consideration of the benefits of higher density development in consenting decisions.
  • Policy direction intended to direct local authorities with major urban centres in their jurisdiction to consider plan change requests for urban development in locations that are out of sequence (being locations identified for future urban development, but dependent on land release sequence), or outside of areas identified for urban development, where particular conditions are met.
  • Removal of minimum car parking requirements in planning documents.

The proposed NPS discussion document can be accessed on the Ministry for the Environment's website here. Submissions close at 5pm on Thursday, 10 October 2019.

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.