How will the RMA Amendment Bill and NPS on Urban Development work together?

The advocacy team have been extraordinarily busy this month, with five submissions made on topics such as transitioning to a low-emissions economy, the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Bill, Wellington’s Draft Development Contributions Policy, Waikato’s Future Proof Strategy, and the Taxation Bill.

Head of Advocacy, Katherine Wilson, gives us an overview of the RMA Amendment Bill and how the NPS-UD will work alongside…

A bi-partisan bill was introduced on 19 October 2021 which proposes new intensification rules, an intensification streamlined planning process and shorter timeframes for local authorities effectively bringing the NPS-UD forward by one year.

Property Council New Zealand have had many questions over the last couple of weeks on our position on the Bill, how it will likely play out (in the practical sense), and what role the current National Policy Standard on Urban Development will continue to have.

Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 2021

A bi-partisan bill was introduced on 19 October 2021. It proposes new intensification rules called medium density residential standards (MRDS). These seek to: 

  • allow up to three homes three storeys high to be built on most sites without a resource consent.
  • more flexible height to ratio boundary rules.
  • smaller private outlook and outdoor living spaces, reduced side yard setbacks.
  • more resource consents (when needed) to proceed on a non-notified basis.

There are two exemptions where intensification is inappropriate (i.e. areas zoned large lot residential or qualifying matters as specified in the NPS-UD).

The bill also proposes to modify the existing streamlined planning process (SPP) under Schedule 1 of the RMA. The proposed modifications are called the intensification streamlined planning process (ISPP) and seeks to mandate tier 1 councils to notify an intensive planning instrument on or before 20 August 2022. There are no appeals against intensification planning instruments that go through the ISPP. This will ensure that intensification planning instruments are operative by mid-2023, bringing the NPS-UD forward by one year.

It may also be noteworthy, that the bill allows councils to amend or include new financial contribution policies in their district plans through the ISPP to help support the cost of development infrastructure that may be required to incorporate the MDRS.

Property Council’s position

We support the MRDS. This is not the silver bullet in solving our housing crisis, but it certainly does help alleviate our current shortage, with PwC modelling predicting the changes would see between 48,200 to 105,500 new homes being built in the next five to eight years.

We support the ISPP and intention to make intensification planning instruments operative by mid-2023. Although we have some concerns with local government resource and capability to undertake this task, we see it in the best interest for plans to be operative six months prior to the long-term plans (council’s three yearly budgets) being out for consultation in February 2024. The operative plans will provide certainty and help feed into a council’s Future Development Strategy, which under the NPS-UD is required to be completed as part of the 2024 Long Term Plan process and sets out locations for future urban growth and infrastructure.

We are dissatisfied with the process, as this came as a shock to many local authorities. Central and Local Government need to work hand in hand for legislative changes of this significance to be implemented and delivered.

If the Government does choose to advance these changes, we would want to see an appropriate regime that ensures developments reflect good urban design while still being built at scale and pace.

You can read our full submission here.for

National Policy Statement on Urban Development (“NPS-UD”)

NPS-UD is the Government’s national direction to local authorities on plan and policy changes to meet the requirements of the Resource Management Act.

The NPS-UD sets out three major directions to local councils:

  1. By August 2022, tier 1 council[1] plans must plan to enable building heights of at least six storeys in metropolitan centre zones or areas within a walkable distance from; existing or planned public transport, the edge of a city zone or metropolitan zone.
  2. From February 2022, councils can no longer set minimum car parking requirements in District Plans, other than for accessible car parks.
  3. Tier 1 and 2 councils[2] must produce a “Future Development Strategy” which sets out a long-term vision with broad locations for future urban growth and infrastructure. The first must be produced in line with the 2024 Long Term Plan and renewed every three years in line with council’s long-term plan.


Property Council’s position

We support the NPS-UD.

Building heights of six storeys

Although it may sound like suddenly, we will have six or more storey buildings across New Zealand, in practice, this is unlikely to occur. The NPS-UD has an ‘opt out’ type provision allowing for councils to modify the building height for qualifying matters (e.g., to protect heritage orders, to implement another NPS, or if a different building such as industrial/retail/commercial is more appropriate).

Although we are supportive of the policy, it is important to note that a one size fits all approach could resolve Auckland’s issues but may have perverse outcomes for other cities. For example, mandating six-storey buildings within a walkable distance from a public transport route that is well outside of the metropolitan centre may instead limit or halt development.

Car parks

Retailers will likely be the most concerned with this proposal as car parking is crucial for store turnover. Particularly, in areas that have limited public transport options.

Residential members are generally supportive, as they feel that the market would self-regulate car parking. For example, areas that are well connected to transport hubs are less likely to require car parks and the market would reflect this. Allowing this to be more market driven, rather than local authorities implementing minimum numbers could have some positive benefits, particularly within the multi-unit / apartment living space where people are a walkable distance to the city centre, local shops or public transport.

Future Development Strategy

The draft NPS-UD did not mandate medium to high growth councils to develop a FDS which we feared would result in fragmented and disjointed planning. The Government listened to our concerns and the adopted NPS-UD requires tier 1 and 2 councils to produce a FDS which will better allow for collaboration and alignment of regional planning.

We strongly support FDS requirements that local authorities must engage with central government to plan for necessary infrastructure. This is something that has been missing in the past. We encourage discussion on the funding of infrastructure (either by current or alternative methods).


In summary

The Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Bill and the NPS-UD both seek to achieve intensification of residential housing. Both the bi-partisan Bill and the NPS-UD have exceptions to development for any qualifying matters (e.g., to protect heritage orders, to implement another NPS, or if a different building such as industrial/retail/commercial is more appropriate).

Although it may sound like suddenly, we will have three houses, three storeys on a section or a minimum of six-storey buildings near key infrastructure nodes across New Zealand, in reality, a one size fits all approach is unlikely and furthermore, the opt-out provisions allow for exceptions to occur.

There are concerns throughout various sectors that with intensification comes increased challenges of achieving good urban design and amenity values. While we continue to promote these outcomes, at the end of the day it is up to the industry (alongside local authorities) to ensure that good urban design is achieved, but great urban design is strived for. 

[1] Tier 1 councils are local authorities located in Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch.

[1] Tier 2 councils are local authorities located in Whangārei, Rotorua, New Plymouth, Napier Hastings, Palmerston North, Nelson Tasman, Queenstown and Dunedin.

Author | Katherine Wilson

As Property Council’s Head of Advocacy, Katherine is tasked with leading our advocacy campaigns at both a regional and national level.

Level-headed and engaging, Katherine has both a law degree from Otago University and an arts degree (majoring in politics) from Auckland University. With solid experience as a policy analyst and advisor in Wellington and Auckland, she has extensive networks and solid analytical skills.

Katherine is hugely dedicated, highly intelligent and committed to ensuring the voice of our members is heard at all levels of governance. She’s also relentlessly positive and enjoys a good chat.

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