Here Comes the Planning Ministry: Twyford to Introduce Sweeping Changes to Planning and City Building

Twyford knuckles down on the Urban Growth Agenda


Last week the Minister of Transport, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Phil Tywford held a large get together to launch the Urban Growth Agenda – that is how we better plan and fund our Cities.

From the NZ Herald:

Fran O’Sullivan: Vehicle for change… but at what cost?

2 Aug, 2018 5:00am – By: Fran O’Sullivan


It’s refreshing that the Labour-led Government is not so shy that it won’t steal the best of its predecessor’s policies when it comes to infrastructure funding.

Urban Development Authority? Tick. Special Purpose Vehicle to fund infrastructure? Tick.

It is not yet clear if Crown Infrastructure Partners — which was one of former National Cabinet Minister Steven Joyce’s brain children — will be the special purpose vehicle that Cabinet finally adopts when it looks to operationalise the plan for the Urban Growth Agenda which was unveiled by Cabinet Minister Phil Twyford in Auckland last night.


The sector is looking for leadership from Government. But also some realism given the problems with bank funding for developers which will now see the Government step in with backstop financing for apartment blocks and other intensive developments.


This will be supported by wider objectives to improve choices for the location and type of housing, improve access to employment, education and services, assist emission reductions and build climate resilience and enable quality built environments, while avoiding unnecessary urban sprawl.

As spelt out in a recent Cabinet paper, the UGA has five pillars of work:

• Infrastructure funding and financing — to enable a more responsive supply of infrastructure and appropriate allocation of cost.
• Urban Planning — to allow cities to make room for growth, support quality built environment and enable strategic integrated planning.
• Spatial planning (initially focused on Auckland and the Auckland-Hamilton corridor) — to build a stronger partnership with local government as a means of developing integrated spatial planning.
• Transport pricing — to ensure the price of transport infrastructure promotes efficient use of the network.
• Legislative reform — to ensure that regulatory, institutional and funding settings are collectively supporting the UGA objectives.

Financing urban infrastructure, like transport and water, is key. Some council balance sheets are at their upper limits when it comes to taking on more debt.




Some quite sweeping reforms coming through the Planning and urban development scene. Couple this with some new National Planning Statement standards coming through (as seen below) and there is quite a regime change on its way.

From Auckland Council:

Planning Committee – 07 August 2018

Draft National Planning Standards – Auckland Council Submission

Te take mō te pūrongo / Purpose of the report

  1. To approve the council’s submission to the Ministry for the Environment on the first set of draft National Planning Standards.

Whakarāpopototanga matua / Executive summary

  1. The first set of draft National Planning Standards (the standards), prepared under the Resource Management Act, seek to standardise the structure and form, chapter layout, spatial planning tools, zone framework, metrics for noise and vibration, and digital and mapping requirements for plans and policy statements throughout New Zealand.  The standards were released on 6 June 2018 and submissions are due 17 August 2018.
  2. A submission has been prepared in consultation with Auckland Transport, Watercare and the Independent Māori Statutory Board.  The main points are:
  • support for the general intent of the standards to achieve consistency and improve accessibility in resource management plans
  • oppose the standards that will have a significant impact on the Auckland Unitary Plan’s regional policy statement, regional coastal plan, zone framework and definitions
  • oppose the seven-year timeframe for implementing the standards
  • request that Auckland Council be given ten years rather than seven to implement the standards.

Ngā tūtohunga / Recommendation/s

That the Planning Committee:

a)       approve the submission on the draft National Planning Standards included as Attachment C to the agenda report.

b)       authorise the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Planning Committee to approve any minor amendments and corrections to the submission prior to lodgement on 17 August 2018.

Horopaki / Context

  1. The Resource Legislation Amendment Act 2017 (the Amendment Act) introduced a new type of national direction in the form of national planning standards.  The standards seek to achieve national consistency in plans and policy statements prepared under the Resource Management Act 1991 (the Act). The content of the first set of standards by the Ministry for the Environment (the Ministry) has been developed over a two-year period as set out in Attachment A.
  2. Council staff have attended numerous meetings and workshops over the past two years to provide insight on the functioning of the Auckland Unitary Plan. Staff submitted formal feedback to the Ministry on the discussion papers in August 2017. This was reported to Planning Committee on 1 August 2017 (resolution number PLA/2017/97).  The focus of the feedback was to ensure that the standards are aligned with the Auckland Unitary Plan to ensure that the standards do not cause a full review of the Auckland Unitary Plan.
  3. Drafts of the first set of standards were released for public submissions on 6 June 2018. Of the 18 standards, 14 are applicable for a combined plan such as the Auckland Unitary Plan.  These standards are in Attachment B.
  4. The Ministry identifies multiple outcomes that will improve the resource management planning system from implementing these standards. These outcomes are:
  5. a)  less time and fewer resources will be required to prepare and use plans
  6. b)  plan content will be easier to access, and relevant content easier to find
  7. c)  national direction will be consistently incorporated in plans, resulting in better implementation on the ground
  8. d)  councils will be able to focus their resources more on plan content that influences local resource management outcomes and what is important to the community
  9. e)  good planning practice will be shared by councils or applied quickly across councils.
  10. The Amendment Act mandates the content of the first set of standards to include:
  • a structure including how plans should reference national policy statements, national environmental standards, and regulations made under the Act
  • definitions
  • requirements for the electronic functionality and accessibility of plans.
  1. The draft standards released on 6 June 2018 also include:
  • spatial planning tools for both regional and district plans
  • a zone framework
  • mapping
  • noise and vibration metrics.
  1. The Amendment Act provides for two types of standards, mandatory and discretionary.    The first set of standards are mostly mandatory standards.  Incorporating these mandatory standards into the Unitary Plan cannot use a formal consultation process under the Act (Schedule 1).
  2. The only discretionary standard in this first set is the Zone Chapter Structure. This Standard provides a set of zones that the council must select from. The council, then, must use a formal consultation process set out in Schedule 1 of the Act to consult on the zones selected.
  3. The Amendment Act enables different timeframes to be specified to implement the standards. All the standards, with one exception, propose giving Auckland Council seven years to implement the standards from gazettal. The exception is the baseline electronic functionality and accessibility Standard which must be met within one year. Councils that have not recently concluded a major plan review have five years to implement the standards.
  4. Staff have prepared a draft submission in consultation with Auckland Transport, Watercare and the Independent Māori Statutory Board. This draft submission is in Attachment C.

Tātaritanga me ngā tohutohu / Analysis and advice

  1. Staff support the overall intent of the standards, which is to improve consistency in resource management plans making it easier for users to understand and access plans. However, the standards, in their current form, will significantly impact on the Auckland Unitary Plan. It is considered that the benefits of implementing the standards, within a seven-year period, would not outweigh the implementation costs.


  1. The standards mandate a new structure for the Auckland Unitary Plan as well as a chapter and rule format, spatial planning tools, mapping requirements and some mandatory definitions. This would require a restructure and a reformat of the majority of the Auckland Unitary Plan. Some provisions would also need to be re-written to ensure they are integrated back into the plan after they have been relocated.
  2. The standards cause significant impacts on the Auckland Unitary Plan structure and content of the plan to the extent that they would:
  • challenge its policy direction;
  • reverse agreements or decisions made in partnership with iwi or other stakeholders;
  • not reflect the outcomes currently anticipated by the Auckland community; and
  • be extremely difficult to incorporate without a significant amount of additional changes that fall outside the scope of consequential amendments.
  1. The significant impacts on the Auckland Unitary Plan are described in the main section of the proposed submission in Attachment C.  The regional policy statement; regional coastal plans, zone framework and definitions of the Auckland Unitary Plan are at risk of being undermined by these standards.

Consequential Amendments

  1. Section 58I of the Act enables consequential amendments to be made to the Auckland Unitary Plan that are necessary to avoid duplication or conflict when giving effect to any mandatory or discretionary direction. These consequential amendments must be made without using a Schedule 1 process (i.e. a plan change process involving rights of submission and hearings).
  2. Consequential amendments that go beyond the scope of duplication or conflict must use a Schedule 1 process.
  3. There are some standards that will not be able to be incorporated into the Unitary Plan without substantial rework of content. Staff do not believe that the required rework will fit within the scope of consequential amendments. This rework will, therefore, need to be undertaken by a plan change. This could result in an extensive public submission and appeal process. Re-opening the debate on provisions such as the zone framework is an example of this rework triggered by the current standards.


  1. Most standards require the council to incorporate the standards into the Auckland Unitary Plan within seven years from gazettal. This is likely to be April 2026. This timeframe broadly aligns with when the council must, under the Act, start a ten-year review of the Auckland Unitary Plan.
  2. The Auckland Unitary Plan was developed over a very intensive six-year period. The first three years involved building the structure, style and content. The next three years involved finalising that content through the extensive involvement of many Aucklanders. This is a plan that was built with a lot of thought and testing. It is a comprehensive and highly integrated plan that speaks to the Auckland region.
  3. Since the Auckland Unitary Plan was made partly operative there have already been numerous plan modifications to fix errors, update zoning matters, to enable development and for administrative matters. More plan changes are likely to be required to correct errors and fix provisions that are creating unintended outcomes. Large plan changes planned in the next five to six years include the Hauraki Gulf Islands Plan Change and the plan change(s) required by the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management.


  1. To try and incorporate the mandatory standards and notify a plan change for the choice of zones and any changes to content that are beyond a consequential amendment, could significantly expose the plan to a lengthy appeal period or a judicial review on the scope of consequential amendments.  This makes incorporating these standards as part of a rolling review of the Plan extremely difficult to do, particularly if multiple parts of the plan are in a non-operative state.
  2. In addition, incorporating these mandatory standards will require a significant rework of the structure and placement of content. This will use resources (time and money) that would have been used on responding to business as usual work requirements.


  1. Staff believe that, unless the standards are amended, a full plan review will be the most efficient and effective way to incorporate these standards.
  2. The Act requires the council to start its review of the provisions in the Auckland Unitary Plan 10 years from these provisions becoming operative. Therefore, a review of the majority of the Auckland Unitary Plan should start by November 2026. However, a full plan review, incorporating the standards, will need to be notified by April 2026. This will require starting the plan review as early as 2022 or 2023.
  3. Table 1 below sets out the options for the council to consider in its submission to the Ministry for the Environment. Table 2 assesses and ranks these options using three criteria.

Table 1: Options for responding to the National Planning Standards

Options Benefits / Advantages Disadvantages
Option 1

Amend the standards to align them with the Auckland Unitary Plan.

Able to incorporate the standards early without a plan change.

Removes most components of the plan from public submissions.

Ongoing plan changes able to adopt the standards from the beginning.

Enables a rolling review of the Auckland Unitary Plan.


Issues could still arise that were not anticipated requiring a Schedule 1 process.

There are aspects of the structure or terms the council may want to change.

Requires additional resources/cost.

GIS/eplan software upgrades required.

Potential for judicial review.

Standards have not been ‘tested’ so potential for ongoing corrections to standards.

Option 2

Exempt Auckland from the standards.


Enables the council to focus on improving the plan based on monitoring and implementation results.

Enables the council to continue to progress big plan changes (e.g. incorporating the Hauraki Gulf Islands)

Additional resources not required.

Enables a rolling review.

There are aspects of our structure or definitions we may want to change.

Council is not consistent with the rest of the country potentially damaging the council’s reputation.

Council put in a position to continually maintain our exemption status.

Option 3

Give Auckland Council more time to incorporate the standards and better align the standards to the Auckland Unitary Plan.

Gives Auckland community a larger ‘breathing space’ before a full plan review.

Enables testing of the standards by other councils.



Enables any legislation changes to be accommodated by both the Plan and the standards.

Enables the council to continue to progress big plan changes (e.g. incorporating the Hauraki Gulf Islands).

Enables the council to improve the plan based on monitoring and implementation results.

Larger plan changes will be notified and then need to be changed again to incorporate the standards when they are possibly under appeal.

Will still require a full plan review.

Potential for judicial review.

GIS/eplan software upgrades required


Option 4


standards remain mostly the same and are required to be incorporated into the Auckland Unitary Plan within 7 years.



May enable early incorporation of monitoring results.



Will require a full plan review


Will need to start full plan review earlier than 7 years i.e. 3 or 4 years earlier.


Delays notifying larger plan changes.


Potential for judicial review.


GIS/eplan software upgrades required

  1. The criteria used for assessing these options are:
  2. a)  Ease of implementation;
  3. b)  Minimal burden on the community; and
  4. c)  Achieving good planning outcomes.

Ease of Implementation

  • Progressing larger plan changes (Hauraki Gulf Islands) within the timeframe required and without the need for an additional plan change to incorporate the standards.
  • The extent of the plan and amount of time that is subject to plan changes before it can be made operative.
  • Minimal amount of the Auckland Unitary Plan is ‘unpicked’ resulting in lack of integration.
  • Minimal amount of ‘content’ requiring a Schedule 1 process and opening the plan up for challenge.

Minimal burden on the community

  • The amount of time between the recent extensive plan review and the next plan review.
  • The number of plan changes requiring public submissions.
  • The burden on the public through Schedule 1 processes.

Achieving good planning outcomes

  • Consistency with the rest of the country.
  • Avoid duplication in effort on aspects of a plan that do not need local variation.



Table 2: Assessing the Options

Options Criterion 1

Ease of Implementation

Criterion 2

Minimal burden on the community

Criterion 3

Achieving good planning outcomes

Option 1

Align standards to Auckland Unitary Plan

2 2 2 6
Option 2

Exempt Auckland


1 1 3 5
Option 3

More Time


1 1 1 3
Option 4

Implement standards as currently drafted


3 3 2 8

Table 3:  Explaining the rating

Rating scale Rating definitions
1 Low impact
2 Medium impact
3 High impact


  1. Staff recommend that the council’s submission to the Ministry for the Environment, request a 10 year implementation period for Auckland. Staff have also proposed, in the submission, a number of changes to the standards to minimise the impact the standards currently have on the Auckland Unitary Plan.
  2. The Auckland Unitary Plan is the largest and most comprehensive in the country and is a fundamental tool for the council in addressing the development pressures in both the urban and rural areas. Auckland, therefore, cannot afford to commence a substantial review of its rule book in four or five years’ time.


Source: Auckland Council


Apologies for the wall-o-text from the Auckland Council Planning Committee but these new National Planning Standards’ attempt to standardise our Planning Regime while deeply wanted it is also deeply flawed if it upsets our Unitary Plan that much.


Having inter-regional spatial planning (starting with Auckland to Hamilton) is excellent to see (given I floated the idea with the Minister earlier this year) while recognising we need better methods to fund and build infrastructure is also needed.


Some ideas from Otahuhu down to Pareata


How this all pans out will be seen next year.


Regional Rail and population
Source: Greater Auckland


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