A plan change is a change to our City Plan. This is a public process involving research, evaluation and consultation.
A plan change can be initiated by Council or by members of the public (private plan change). A private plan change is typically an application made by a developer to Council for range of changes to a large section of land to enable a development to occur.
Examples of possible plan changes include:
- rezoning of land (initiated by Council)
- rezoning to provide for more residential or business land development (initiated by a private individual)
- amendments to rules
- implementing Government directions
- addition of a building to the schedule of heritage buildings.
Why do councils undertake plan changes?
The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) requires the provisions in the City Plan to be reviewed every 10 years. However, it is best practice for the plan to be regularly reviewed. We actively monitor the effectiveness of our City Plan and initiate plan changes to respond to emerging issues.
What does the plan change process involve?
The RMA outlines the plan change process that we are required to follow. Community involvement, including pre-engagement, consultation, notification, submissions and hearing processes are important steps in the plan change process.
There are currently three pathways:
- The standard consultation (default) pathway. This involves consultation and community engagement, including pre-consultation, notification, submissions, decisions and appeals to the Environment Court.
- The limited notification pathway. This is the same as the default pathway, except that only directly affected landowners are notified. This is usually for localised or very specific plan changes.
- The streamlined planning process (SPP) pathway. This is where Council applies for the Minister for the Environment for a fast track plan change. The standard process and timeframes can be modified, and the Minister makes the final decision rather than Council.
What are the steps in the plan change process?
- Issue identification and pre-consultation
- Plan change and section 32 RMA report assessing costs and benefits produced
- Plan change and section 32 approved by Council for public notification
- Public notification for submissions (min. 20 working days)
- Public notification of summary of submissions for further submissions (10 working days to submit). Further submissions are limited as to who may make a further submission.
- Public notification of decisions
- Appeals (30 working days to lodge)
- Environment Court process if any appeals
- Plan change is operative
This whole process can take up to two years. During this time, monitoring and review continues.
What do I need to know about the plan change process?
- In most cases, we will consult those affected before notifying a plan change. The level of consultation required will depend on the nature of the plan change.
- We will produce a plan change document that includes an explanation of the proposed changes and a section 32 report. This report considers the appropriateness of the plan change and assesses the costs and benefits of the environmental, economic, social and cultural effects anticipated from the plan change.
- When a plan change is notified, any member of the public can make a submission in writing on the prescribed form (form 5 of the RMA) and explain why they support or oppose the plan change. Submissions are called for over a period of at least 20 working days.
- Once all submissions are received, they are summarised and notified. Certain people can make further submissions in writing on the prescribed form (form 6 of the RMA). Further submissions cannot identify new issues but can support or oppose the contents of original submissions. Further submissions are called for over a period of at least 10 working days.
- Council will then hold a hearing, if required, for submitters to verbally present their submissions. The hearing panel can be made of accredited councillors, independent commissioners, or a mix. After the hearing, Council makes a decision to accept or reject each submission received in whole or in part. Council will then publicly notify its decision.
- A submitter can appeal the Council decision to the Environment Court within 30 working days. If you are considering lodging an appeal on a plan change it is recommended that you obtain independent legal advice.
Plan changes and legal effect
In general, proposed plan changes have legal effect when decisions on submissions are publicly notified. Some specific exceptions apply under sections 86A to 86G of the RMA. In addition to the existing rules within the City Plan, resource consents must be applied for activities that trigger new rules that have legal effect within proposed plan changes. In other words, different resource consents may be required under both the existing rules and the new rules.