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Use of Council Land Policy

With a growing community and increased use and demand, we started reviewing how we’re managing the use of places and spaces.

Ultimately, we want to ensure public land is used for everyone’s benefit, and that it is consistently managed. We also want to ensure that everyone, including community groups, commercial and private users, understands what can and can’t be done on council land.

To inform our review, we asked the community and stakeholders for their feedback on how they want to use parks, reserves and stormwater reserves in the future. The feedback received helped us shape the fair access to our places and spaces in the future.

Now that we’ve developed a draft Use of Council Land Policy, we’re asking for your feedback to determine if we’ve got the balance for using council land right.

Draft use of Council Land Policy (242kb pdf)

What we’re proposing

Outcomes sought from the use of council land
  • Community Benefit - council land is primarily for community use; however council land may be used for private or commercial purposes where this provides a public benefit, and is consistent with relevant plans, strategies and policies.
  • Environment - council recognises and protects the environmental values associated with council land. Areas with high ecological and landscape value are recognised, valued, and protected. 
  • Vibrancy, Inclusivity and Diversity - council recognises the role of council land in providing for a range of uses and activities that contribute to community connection, vibrancy, and diversity.
  • Cultural Significance - council recognises the customary and traditional connection that mana whenua has to the land. Council will work with mana whenua on the management and use of council land to give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, and the relationship protocols it has with iwi and hapū. Areas with high cultural, archaeological, and historical value are recognised, valued, and protected.
  • Health and Wellbeing - council recognises the role of council land in promoting and supporting health, wellbeing, and active communities. 
Approaches to managing council land
  • Purposeful - council-owned and administered land will be managed and used for its stated purpose, as outlined in the Tauranga Reserve Management Plan, the Reserves Act and the Long-Term Plan and Annual Plan.
  • Partnership - council will work in partnership with users of the land, mana whenua and key stakeholders to achieve the outcomes of this policy.
  • Network Approach - council applies a network approach to the development, management and use of outdoor spaces to ensure that activities are accommodated on the most suitable space for the type of use, and to minimise the impact on infrastructure, the environment, and other users.
  • Knowledge and Insight - council will actively monitor the use of outdoor spaces to inform decision-making. Council will share available information on spaces, including their history, cultural, ecological, and environmental values and their potential uses with the community.  
  • Fairness - in setting fees and charges, council will balance the public value of the use of council land against any private benefits accrued.

If bookings or activities clash then council will consider how each activity would help achieve the principles, keeping  in mind other planned activities. The activity more likely to achieve the principles will be prioritised. A decision-making panel will be available where applicants don’t agree with decisions made or where activities both have distinct but differing benefits and determining who to prioritise may be more difficult. For example, if a kapa haka group wants to hold a workshop on a park at the same time as a free community bootcamp.

We want to clarify who should have priority if high-performance sport casual fixtures and trainings (not events) clash with community teams bookings for sport fields. We are proposing that high-performance sport have priority where: ∙

  • They are a team that represents Tauranga or are a national New Zealand sporting team
  • The training or fixture is likely to increase the profile and relevance of sport for the community

If the high-performance sport booking does not meet either of these criteria, then community sport would have priority.

This would look like prioritising training or fixtures of New Zealand representative teams, Bay of Plenty regional teams and/or visiting regional or international teams that encourages local participation and engagement and may attract spectators. Where a visiting team’s training or fixture is low-profile, then community sport would have priority.

We heard from community feedback that there was a desire for more vibrancy and diversity of activities on offer across the city, but that council land is not always the best place for commercial activities. When managed well, commercial activities can offer vibrancy and a diversity of offering to the community. Commercial operators will be allowed to operate on council land where they can show a public benefit, are of a high quality, and are appropriate for the space. To better manage commercial activity on council land we will be:

  • Asking small-scale activities to have a Qualmark certification
  • Asking cultural tour operators to show evidence of engagement with appropriate iwi / hapū representatives on  the content of their tour
  • Setting approved trading sites, duration of trade, and conditions of trading, including any noise restriction levels and waste management plan conditions as part of trading licences
  • Allowing licences to be issued for a period up to two years in duration to quality operators with an annual review
  • Setting an ability to update licence terms with one month’s notice to better respond to any changes in circumstance

The policy also helps staff to decide what type of commercial operators can operate in a space, and how many to allow. The policy sets out what staff need to consider when making these decisions. For example, considerations such as, the impact on car parking and existing traders, and the views of the community, iwi and hapū.

The council sets a 33-year maximum lease term for operational property but subject to 10-year renewals and the inclusion of a termination clause. This structure is designed to balance the need for community groups to be able to plan and fund for their activities and the possibility that the council may at some point in the future reassess plans for a site and want to reallocate the land to meet another purpose.

We heard from early engagement on the policy and feedback from stakeholders a desire for more community gardens on council land. To support this aspiration, the policy goes further than allowing land to be used and now tasks council with supporting the identification of suitable land and assisting community groups in the planning and implementation of a community garden.

Council land is generally not provided for memorials however commemorative trees can be planted to remember a loved one, honour someone, express appreciation, or celebrate a birth, anniversary or special event. Family and friends can plant or help plant the tree. Council staff need to be present at all tree plantings. Plaques will not be permitted but the donation may be recorded on the Council website where this is desired for the public record.

We heard that stormwater reserves are an important source of greenspace for communities and that the community should be able to utilise these spaces for play, exploration, and enjoyment. The primary purpose of stormwater reserves remains to direct, slow, absorb and remove stormwater from roads, housing, and infrastructure to avoid flooding and damage. But the draft policy tasks council with supporting community aspirations for stormwater reserves, provided this can be accommodated without compromising their primary function.

The policy includes a range of other topics from the original policies that have been edited and refreshed but the content remains substantially the same. This includes topics such as encroachments, network operator licences, signage, and early childhood education centres.

What will happen next?

Feedback on the proposed changes closed on Wednesday, 12 October 2022. Hearings were held on Monday, 14 November 2022.

We plan to adopt a final Use of Council Land policy in December 2022.

There are ten policies we are currently reviewing:

  • Community, private and commercial use of council-administered land
  • Community gardens
  • Temporary commercial activities on reserves
  • Encroachments onto reserves
  • City events
  • Operation of markets and stalls
  • Mobile shops
  • Sponsorship signage on reserves
  • Network operator licences
  • Outdoor Spaces Booking Policy

Note: This review looks primarily at parks and reserves held under the Reserves Act, stormwater reserves, and private and commercial activities that may or may not occur in these spaces. The Reserves Act and the Tauranga Reserve Management Plan provide a lot of the higher-level rules around what can be done in these spaces and we are not replicating that here. We will also complete a part two of this review looking separately at road reserves and we will ask questions about those in the future.


Survey has closed

The survey closed at 5pm, 12 October 2022.


  • Community engagement

    21 September to 23 October 2020
  • Feedback analysis

    May to June 2021
  • Issues and options paper

    13 December 2021
  • Adoption of draft policy

    Mid 2022
  • Public and stakeholder consultation on draft policy

    September 2022
  • Hearings

    November 2022
  • Adoption of final policy

    December 2022

Document library

Draft use of Council Land Policy (242kb pdf)

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