Unitary Plan Update – July 2015

Home Insights Unitary Plan Update – July 2015

Contributed by:

Contributed by: Francelle Lupis, Chaturika Jayasinghe and Annabel Linterman

Published on:

Published on: July 01, 2015


Unitary Plan Update

Council response to Procedural Minute 6

The Council’s latest response to Procedural Minute 6, specifically addressing precinct and re-zoning requests was received on 16 June. 

The Council’s response addressed directions from the Hearings Panel arising from the public meeting held on 24 March to discuss this group of submissions. The Panel’s directions required the Council to:

  • Identify  “thematic groups” with related rezoning and precinct submission points that can be heard prior to the completion of the hearing topics for zone provisions.

  • Finalise and identify the submission points requesting new precincts.

  • Identify the major submitters that could benefit from pre-hearing meetings to clarify their concerns and to hear from related further submitters.

  • Consider the extent of direct discussion and mediation required to progress both rezoning and precinct submission points.

  • Provide estimates of the likely mediation and hearing time for both rezoning and precincts.

In response, the Council has addressed:

  • A proposal to restructure the existing precinct and re-zoning topics, to create new topics (and subtopics) and to enable related re-zoning and precinct matters to be heard together.

  • A proposed re-zoning and precinct hearing programme, which discusses the proposed sequencing of topics.

  • The identification of themes (and thematic groups) within the proposed new re-zoning and precinct topics.

  • The identification of submission points seeking new precincts within the proposed new re-zoning and precinct optics.

  • The Council’s estimates of mediation and hearing days for the proposed new rezoning and precinct topics, including the assumptions relied on to reach those estimates.

  • The Council’s estimates of time required for pre-hearing meetings.

  • The identification of 75 “major submitters”.

  • A suggested alternative approach for the exchange of evidence for the proposed new rezoning and precinct topic hearings.

  • Key questions and directions sought from the Panel in relation to the proposed new rezoning and precinct topics.

The Council has proposed to restructure the existing rezoning and precinct topics as follows:

  • Auckland-wide topic – to address submissions that have Auckland-wide application.
  • Auckland-wide theme-based topics – the Council has identified four themes for submissions which can be grouped regardless of geographical location and which seek to change the zoning of land that is subject to overlays. These are: volcanic viewshaft height sensitive areas, electricity transmission corridor, special character and flooding.
  • Specific zone-based topics – to address the Public Open Space zones, Coastal zones and Special Purpose zones.
  • Geographical based topics – the majority of submission points will be grouped into local areas based on their spatial context, theme and issues. The Council has suggested that hearings could be based in the location to which the topic relates allowing submitters to attend hearings in their area.  

As a guideline for the hearing programme and timeline, the Council has suggested that the Auckland-wide, theme-based and specific-zone topics be heard in late 2015 followed by the geographical topics in early 2016. The Council has indicated that there is potential for the theme and specific zone-based topics to be heard simultaneously. 

To assist with scheduling hearings, the Council has undertaken further analysis to estimate the time that will be required for the pre-hearing meetings, mediations and hearings on these topics. The estimates for each topic are set out in detail here.  

The Council has identified a list of “major submitters” to recognise those submitters who have landholdings throughout Auckland, own large areas of land or are a submitter that has submitted in multiple geographical locations / on multiple precincts.  The Council has assessed the sufficiency of information provided by these submitters to support their submissions on a scale of 1 - 3 with 1 being that no supporting information has been provided, 2 being that some supporting information has been provided, and 3 being that extensive supporting information has been provided. 

Due to the number of submissions, the Council has recognised that there may be limitations in holding pre-hearing meetings but the Council does consider that there would be merit in holding pre-hearing meetings for major submitters and to have a series of “open days” where submitters can discuss their submissions with Council officers directly (proposed to be run in October 2015). 

The Council considers that mediation may be useful for submissions on new and existing precincts and will confirm by 31 August 2015 the Precincts that it considers would benefit from mediation.

The Council has also proposed an alternative approach to Council evidence and reporting to the Panel. The Council has suggested that it prepares evidence in the form of a section 42 RMA report to make the process for evidence exchange more efficient. This report could summarise relevant submissions, identify issues in dispute, attach memoranda from Council’s experts, provide the Council’s position on each issue in dispute and attach track changes / maps.  This alternative approach would replace Council’s multiple briefs of evidence. The Council is also proposing to prepare evidence on the Council’s overall approach to rezoning and precincts that will be filed in advance of the first hearing and can be cross-referenced throughout the various subsequent hearings

Given that many re-zoning submissions seek changes to maps rather than to the text of the Unitary Plan, the Council also intends to produce three versions of maps per topic (notified version, zoning proposed by submitters and zoning proposed by Council).

The Council has sought the following directions from the Panel in relation to the matters raised in Council’s response of 15 June 2015 (described above) and also to the following:

  • that submitters provide supporting information 12 weeks in advance of the scheduled hearing;  and
  • that submitters advise the Panel at the pre-hearing conference of any expert evidence they intend to call in support.

The Council’s complete response including attachments can be found here.

On 23 June the Panel cancelled the additional conference day scheduled for Friday 3 July as, after considering the response provided, it no longer considers it necessary to meet with the Council to discuss the information.

The Panel has confirmed that it will instead respond in writing as soon as possible. A draft timetable for the remaining hearings is expected to be released in July 2015.


Updated interim guidance – Chapter B8.3 Rural Subdivision

The Panel has released updated interim guidance in relation to Chapter B8.3 -–Rural Subdivision, which can be found here

This guidance was released following correspondence received from the Environmental Defence Society dated 8 May 2015 which requested clearer guidance in relation to rural subdivision and areas of identified significant ecological, landscape and natural character values.

The Panel has clarified that provision for subdivision for rural lifestyle purposes should be enabled subject to certain constraints on location, scale and density, which now include the additional criterion of protecting areas of identified significant ecological, landscape and natural character values. The Panel has also included a caveat that the parameters of the listed constraints have not been fully determined.

Procedural Minute No. 13 in relation to Hearing Process for Topic 061: Retirement Village and Affordability

On 5 June 2015 the Panel released Procedural Minute 13 in relation to the Hearings Process for Topic 061: Retirement Village and Affordability.

The parties present at the mediation for Topic 061 agreed that the removal or replacement of the Special Purpose: Retirement Village zone as proposed by Auckland Council was appropriate, provided that specific retirement village provisions are incorporated into the Residential and Business zones, and/or a Retirement Village Auckland-Wide Precinct is introduced.

In order to confirm an acceptable package of precinct/zoning provisions to replace the Special Purpose Zone, the mediation parties have requested that one hearing day be converted to a “workshop”. These provisions will then be presented at subsequent mediations and confirm hearings for the Residential and Business zone and precinct topics.

Procedural Minute 13 includes the following directions:  

  • The first hearing day for Topic 061 (20 July 2015) will now be a workshop, as requested by Council and submitters.
  • The outcome of this workshop will be published on the Panel’s website as soon as possible to inform subsequent submitter participation in the hearing process.
  • Persons who have submitted on the Special Purpose Retirement Village zone under Topic 061 are also granted standing under the Residential zone topics (Topics 059, 060, 062, 063), Business zone topics (Topics 051, 052, 053, 054), and Precinct topics (Topics 070, 071, 072, 073). Standing is established on the basis of consequential changes arising from the proposed removal of the Special Purpose zone.  
  • Submitters to the Retirement Villages component of Topic 061 are encouraged to attend meetings and hearings on the Precinct, Residential and Business zone topics. No specific notification will be sent. Submitters will need to visit the Panel’s website to identify key information for each relevant topic and contact the hearing administrator for any further assistance.  

The Council has indicated that any retirement village precinct is likely to include some concept plans for specific sites, generally enabling development in accordance with those concept plans. However, before those can be included in the precinct, a detailed effects assessment would need to be undertaken.

Accordingly, if a retirement village operator is seeking, through its submission (or as a consequential change to the deletion of the proposed Retirement Village Zone provisions) to have a concept plan included in the proposed precinct, those concept plans (which will need to be clearly dimensioned), a section 32 analysis and details of any existing resource consents for the site, will need to be provided to the Council. The Council will not be able to consider any concept plans which do not have a detailed assessment of effects and a section 32 analysis.

While it is unlikely that there will be enough time for individual concept plans to be discussed at the 20 July workshop, an understanding of the concept plans being sought will be critical to informing the development of the precinct provisions. The Council requires all the information being relied on to support a concept plan to be provided to the Council by Thursday 2 July. If the information cannot be provided by this date, the Council will need to know what concept plans are being sought and when the required information can be provided. 


Hearing update – Mana Whenua Sites (Topic 037)

The Topic 037 – Mana Whenua Sites hearing took place on 2 – 4, 8 and 9 June 2015, covering:

  • The Sites and Places of Significance to Mana Whenua (SSMW) and Sites and Places of Value to Mana Whenua (SVMW) overlay provisions.
  • The SSMW and SVMW schedules.
  • The Accidental Discovery Protocols (ADP) provisions.
  • The Cultural Impact Assessment (CIA) provisions.

Notably, the SSMW and SVMW rules and ADP and CIA provisions all took legal effect at the notification of the Unitary Plan under section 86B of the RMA. Submitters’ experiences with the provisions were a focus at mediation and in evidence.

The provisions and schedules were the subject of five days of mediation at the beginning of April, with significant agreement reached between industry submitters and both Mana Whenua and the Council, but with several areas of concern remaining outstanding coming into the hearing.

More specifically, in respect of the SSMW and SVMW overlay provisions, concerns were raised as to the disconnect between the objectives and policies themselves, and between the objective and policy framework and the rules. Submitters also flagged concerns around the scheduling of SSMW and SVMW. The Council conceded in evidence that for SVMW, in particular, the size of the "purple circles" identifying such sites on the Unitary Plan maps should be reduced given the uncertainty of information available as to these sites.  Interestingly, the Panel went so far as to query the use of the "purple circles" altogether, suggesting that a shift may be needed in the identification of these particular sites.

Turning to the ADP and CIA provisions, the planners for several Russell McVeagh clients co-ordinated a joint planning statement, which proposed combined alternative relief. These amendments were to a large extent accepted in the Council’s rebuttal evidence, which was noted in the presentation of the statement to the Panel on 3 June 2015. That said, the Council produced supplementary rebuttal evidence in respect of certain elements of the CIA provisions, sparking debate on the penultimate day of the hearing as to its broader implications in terms of fair procedure. (Refer item below regarding the content of rebuttal evidence and reply submissions.)  

Both the Council and the Independent Maori Statutory Board are to provide closing submissions.


Reminder from the Panel

On 18 June, Russell McVeagh filed a memorandum with the Hearings Panel on behalf of a number of quarry operators highlighting a concern in respect of a document attached to Council’s reply submissions for Topic 041 (Earthworks), which effectively constituted new evidence. The memorandum also raised a more general concern, not limited to Topic 041, in respect of the timeliness of filing primary/rebuttal evidence and new evidence contained in rebuttal evidence or reply submissions. While endorsing the Panel’s pragmatic approach to procedure, the memorandum explained that submitters cannot be reasonably expected to respond to evidence that has been filed well after deadlines have passed, or to respond to new content introduced in rebuttal evidence or reply submissions.  

On 19 June the Panel emailed all submitters to "strongly remind" them of the following:

  • Evidence is still being provided after the advised evidence exchange dates – sometimes many days after the required date. Should this continue, the Panel may exclude any evidence that has been provided after the due date.
  • There is to be no new material raised in rebuttal evidence or closing comments.

In the same reminder email, the Panel also requested that all submitters provide the names of the experts they wish to call at the hearing prior to the pre-hearing meeting completing by completing the Submitter Information for Pre-hearing Meeting form, or where names are not known, at a minimum, provide the area of expertise. Otherwise, the submitter risks rejection of their experts’ evidence at the hearing.


Upcoming deadlines

The following dates are currently scheduled for June and July (note, the following dates relate to mediation, unless otherwise specified):  

  • Topic 051 (Centre Zones) / Topic 052 (Business Park and Industries Zone) / Topic 53 (Business Activities) / Topic 54 (Business Controls) – 29-30 June and 1-2 July
  • Topic 048 (Aquifers and groundwater) – 2 July
  • Topic 076 (Major recreation zones and precincts) – 1-3 July
  • Topic 059 (Residential objectives and policies) / Topic 060 (Residential activities) / Topic 062 (Residential development) / Topic 063 (Residential controls and assessment) has mediation on 27-31 July
  • Topic 022 (Natural Hazards and flooding) – 29-30 June
  • Topic 076 (Major recreation zones and precincts) – 1-3 July
  • Topic 077 (Sustainable design) – 6-7 July
  • Topic 065 (Definition) pre-hearing meeting – 7 July
  • Topic 074 (Designations) pre-hearing meeting – 8 July
  • Topic 079 (Special character and pre-1944 mapping) pre-hearing meeting – 23 July
  • Topic 061 (Retirement and affordability) workshop on special purpose Retirement Village zone – 20 July

The following hearing dates are currently scheduled for June and July:

  • Topic 042 (Infrastructure) – 1 July
  • Topic 020 (Viewshafts) – 29 & 30 June
  • Topic 058 (Public open space) – 2-3 July
  • Topic 047 (Lakes, rivers and streams) – 6-7 &15-17 July
  • Topic 043 (Transport objectives and policies) / Topic 044 (Transport rules and other) – 8-10 & 13-14 July
  • Topic  032 (Historic heritage schedules) – 13-15 July
  • Topic 061 (Retirement and affordability) – 21-22 July
  • Topic 046 (Water quality and quantity) – 23-24 & 27-29 July

Please refer to the provisional Hearings Schedule for further details. 


If you have any questions about the items in this newsletter, please contact any of the partners or authors of the articles as listed above.

The publication is intended only to provide a brief summary of the subjects covered. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such without first obtaining specific professional advice based on your unique circumstances.

Russell McVeagh has New Zealand’s longest established and most experienced environmental and resource management practice.

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