Auckland council planners say the Government’s proposals for national planning standards will conflict with important features of the Auckland unitary plan, which took 6 years to formulate and is close to becoming fully operative.
110 pages of the council planning committee’s agenda last Tuesday were devoted to the draft standards and the council staff’s proposed submissions on them.
The big issue for councillors was to ask – or, to varying suggested degrees, tell – the Government & Ministry for the Environment the council would need more time to put the standards in place. The proposal is 7 years but Auckland wants 10.
The big issue for staff is the complexity, including likely needless doubling up of terminology for 2 large plan changes coming up soon, and that will mean extra cost.
Linley Wilkinson, the council’s lead planner on Auckland-wide planning, whose previous role was to lead the integration of the old councils’ plans into the super-city Auckland Council’s unitary plan, told the committee the idea of national standards had been around for a long time, especially when the Resource Management Act was introduced in 1991.
Now that the draft has been written, the Ministry for the Environment wants the standards gazetted by next April.
The draft’s aim is to standardise the structure & form, chapter layout, spatial planning tools, zone framework, metrics for noise & vibration and digital & planning requirements for plans & policy statements throughout New Zealand.
Ms Wilkinson said some of the standards would have significant impacts for Auckland, which had the most complex & largest plan in the country, combining both regional & district plans (assessments previously separated into the functions of regional & local councils).
“We’ve really scrutinised each standard to see what impact they will have on the unitary plan. There is quite a lot of significance. The zoning framework does not cover the full sweep of what our plan moves in. They are pitching these standards at more medium-sized councils. It has been a little bit disappointing for us, and we feel some of the standards will substantially unpick some of the unitary plan.”
She said that if the council was forced to produce a revised plan in 7 years, it wold have to start work on it 2-3 years earlier than projected.
Auckland Council’s planners generally supported the standardisation intent to achieve consistency & improve accessibility. But they said the standards would have a significant impact on the regional policy statement, regional coastal plan, zone framework & definitions.
Main points in the council submission
- would challenge the Auckland unitary plan’s policy direction
- would reverse agreements or decisions made in partnership with iwi or other stakeholders
- don’t reflect the outcomes the community anticipates
- would reduce the number of zones
- didn’t contain a section specifically on urban growth, and
- didn’t contain a section specifically relating to mana whenua.
The council planners are concerned that reducing zone numbers will mean revisiting the whole underlying policy framework, after they’d gone to great lengths to harmonise the legacy zonings of the pre-super-city councils. Instead of relitigating those issues, the council planners say the council should build on work already completed through the unitary plan – that one, point 3.6 in the submission, is likely to leave the standards writers about as confused as I am at what is meant.
Perhaps the biggest conflict will come in the naming & basis of zones. The council used names to describe zones whereas the standards proposal is for residential zone names based on density.
The submission: “This does not make sense in the Auckland context, where 3 of the residential zones in the Auckland unitary plan have no density limit. Instead, the zones are names in accordance with the housing typology provided for.”
While the key concern at the committee was around how mayor Phil Goff might best convey the council’s unhappiness at conflicting versions, members generally ignored that – as with the way different versions of the old councils’ plans were worked through to reach an agreed formula – the best course might be a delay in gazetting the current draft.
In that case, the debate ought to have been about how to present a delay in a good light.
That good light could be:
- To agree some more complexity for large urban regions than would be needed for smaller towns & cities
- To spend another year getting more agreed uniformity,
- Alternatively, educate members of Parliament before the draft is gazetted on what unworkable sections will cost the country, landowners, developers, home owners.
Links, Auckland Council planning committee agenda 7 August 2018:
12, Draft national planning standards – Auckland Council submission
Process for developing national planning standards
Planning standards relevant for the unitary plan
Auckland Council submission on draft national planning standards
Attribution: Council committee meeting & agenda.