Unitary Plan Update – May 2015

Home Insights Unitary Plan Update – May 2015

Contributed by:

Contributed by: Francelle Lupis, Chaturika Jayasinghe and Samantha Beattie

Published on:

Published on: May 22, 2015


Latest Interim Guidance

On 6 May, the Panel released its interim guidance on Topic 022 – Natural Hazards and Flooding. This guidance is to be read in conjunction with the previously released interim guidance on Topic 018 RPS General (PAUP Chapter B – Regional Policy Statement); Topic 011 Rural (Section B8.3 – Rural Subdivision); Topic 012 Significant Infrastructure, Energy and Transport (Section B3.2 – Significant Infrastructure and Energy); and Topic 004 Chapter G General Provisions (Regional and District Rules).

As a result of the guidance, new key dates have been set. Submitters are to present and circulate their proposed versions (on the basis of merged natural hazard and flooding provisions) by 25 May 2015. The Council is to respond (including with any further provisions) by 10 June 2015. The Panel will appoint a mediator to convene a mediation of parties on 29 and 30 June 2015. Following mediation, the Panel will consider whether any further hearing time is necessary or desirable and, if so, such time will be available on 31 July 2015.

A summary of the Topic 022 guidance follows:

  • Merger of natural hazard and flooding provisions: The Panel supports the merging of the natural hazard and flooding provisions into one section, but considers that this merged section should neither increase risk in existing activity areas, nor create new risks in areas of proposed development, while simultaneously acknowledging the functional needs of particular activities to be located in areas subject to natural hazards, such as the coast.
  • Alternate methods to address natural hazards: The Panel raised a concern regarding inconsistent reference to natural hazards in the subdivision provisions, and encouraged other “more appropriate methods” to address certain aspects of natural hazards such as policies and assessment criteria relating to the duration of consents; and the use of notices under sections 71 – 74 of the Building Act 2004.  
  • Activity status: The Panel suggested that use and development of existing built up areas may be unduly restricted by the natural hazard and flooding provisions. The Panel encouraged enabling design-led solutions using controlled or restricted discretionary activity status, with appropriately limited matters of control or discretion, and clear and succinct assessment criteria that assist with giving effect to the objectives and policies for natural hazards and flooding.
  • Coastal inundation/sea level rise: The Panel considers that the Unitary Plan provisions should deal with coastal inundation / sea level rise on the basis of a projected one metre sea level rise within 100 years (to 2115). Additionally, the Panel considers that the Unitary Plan should deal with the 1% Annual Exceedance Probability coastal storm tide event plus the one metre projected sea level rise.
  • Natural Hazards – Coastal Inundation Maps in Unitary Plan GIS Viewer: The Panel is not convinced of the need for a two metre sea level rise to be identified as a statutory requirement in the Unitary Plan or maps, and recommends that maps showing a two metre sea level rise could be located outside of the Unitary Plan GIS Viewer.
  • Appropriate Flood Design Level: The Panel accepts that there is jurisdiction to include rules in the Unitary Plan to control the development of areas of land (rather than existing sites) through the processes of subdivision and structure planning.
  • Flood Prone Layer: The Panel is not convinced of the necessity for text provisions and maps for a Flood Prone layer.
  • Classification of churches and schools: The Panel considers that churches and schools should be considered less vulnerable activities for the purposes of these provisions.
  • Rapid Flood Hazard Assessment: The Council, in preparing its flood hazard maps, has acknowledged limitation in this assessment. The Panel is aware that any particular assessment of a specific site may be addressed through the consent process. However, the Panel notes that an important public benefit of the Council undertaking robust technical mapping is to avoid imposing unnecessary burdens on landowners and applicants in ensuring that resources deserving protection are not overlooked.
  • Bushfire provisions: The Panel is not convinced there is a need for provisions regarding bushfires, as there was no evidence of bushfire being a significant risk in the Auckland region and there was no robust evidence of support for such provisions.
  • Unstable land definitions: The Panel agrees that the definitions in relation to land which may be subject to instability can be improved, making two specific recommendations:
    1. In line with the evidence of Mr Hillier from Tonkin & Taylor, the Panel considers that liquefaction is a relevant consideration at the stage of subdivision or structure planning, and may be assessed having regard to the references to subsidence, slippage and erosion in section 106 of the Resource Management Act 1991.
    2. At present, building a house in an area of instability is a restricted discretionary activity, even if the site has been extensively investigated and engineered at the land-use and subdivision consent stage. The Panel invites the parties to evaluate the appropriateness of this activity status and possible alternative mechanisms.

The guidance can be found in full here.

Procedural Minute No. 12 in relation to Hearing Process for Topic 020: Viewshafts

The Panel released Procedural Minute No. 12 in relation to the Hearings Process for Topic 020: Viewshafts on 20 May 2015.   

In response to the issues raised by the memoranda of Housing New Zealand dated 6 May 2015 and from Auckland Council dated 7 and 15 May 2015, both found under the Evidence for Topic 020, the following directions have been made in regards to hearing procedure:

  • The hearing for Topic 020 – Viewshafts will commence on 29 June 2015, and will focus on the relevant text (objectives, policies and rules) of the Unitary Plan for viewshafts, in addition to alternative text sought by submitters.
  • The Council and Housing NZ have agreed to restrict proceedings to a sample of viewshafts, representative of the main issues between them (specifically, E10 Mt Eden; T01 Rangitoto; W12 Mt Wellington; AOB Mt Albert; W26 Mt Hobson, Mt Eden, One Tree Hill and E11 Mt Eden).  These include examples of iconic viewshafts with broad effect; those that demonstrate Housing NZ's concern with the development costs of veiwshafts; and viewshafts of regional significance.
  • In addition to the agreed examples, the Council and Housing NZ shall present a schedule of viewshafts, including those that constitute the top rank of significance (approximately 14 viewshafts); that the Council accepts no longer merit identification and protection in the Unitary Plan (approximately nine viewshafts); and that Housing NZ regards as having the greatest impact on its property portfolio (approximately 13 viewshafts).
  • Housing NZ shall provide the Council with an assessment of the measured effect of viewshafts on its property portfolio, measured in floor area.
  • At the conclusion of the hearing on 30 June 2015, the Panel will expect both Housing NZ and the Council to address next steps including:
    • assessment of further proposed viewshafts (beyond the examples adduced at the first hearing);
    • whether the parties would be assisted by guidance from the Panel either regarding the Plan text or more generally, any issue arising from the hearing; and
    • what directions ought to be made for any resumed hearing.

The Panel appreciates submitters may wish to focus on viewshafts other than those agreed by the Council and Housing NZ, and further directed that other parties who wish to address next steps will be invited to do so at the hearing.

There are consequential amendments to the upcoming evidence dates in relation to Topic 020:

  • Auckland Council's evidence – Monday 25 May 2015
  • All other submitters' evidence – Monday 8 June 2015
  • Rebuttal evidence – Monday 22 June 2015

Topics 059 / 060 / 062 / 063 – Residential zones

The pre-hearing meeting for Topics 059, 060, 062 and 063 – Residential zones was held on 18 May 2015. The Panel, in recognising the immense interest in this topic (it incorporates 6,572 submission points and 62,116 further submission points), has proposed a special process to help narrow the issues and make it as easy as possible for the submitters involved. 

Initial workshops will be held between the 22 – 26 June 2015, which will be facilitated by mediators Alan Watson and Marlene Oliver. Each workshop will be based on the particular issues that have been identified by the Panel and set out in the Parties and Issues Report. Over the coming weeks the mediators are open to receiving suggestions and feedback (any requests to contact the mediators with suggestions, feedback or questions are to be sent via Panel staff) to create a comprehensive workshop agenda. The mediators have asked that any requests be sent to the Panel by 12 June 2015, and they will aim to circulate the agenda the week beginning 15 June 2015. 

Following the workshops, the Council will produce a track-change version of the Residential zones provisions.  This will form the basis of mediation to be held 27 – 31 July and 3 – 7 August 2015.        

The Panel have recognised that there will be a certain amount of overlap between the general residential zones provisions and site-specific issues, but that submitters should focus on the general provisions as much as possible during this current process. Once the provisions are settled, then the question to be decided in the re-zoning topic is whether these provisions should apply to particular sites. 

In June the Panel will work with the Council to confirm the process for dealing with site-specific issues and the rezoning topics. A hearing schedule will be on the Panel website in July.

Direct Discussions

The Panel has now included opportunities within the admin schedule for primary submitters to attend direct discussions with a Council officer for certain topics. All primary submitters who indicated they wished to be heard have received notice of these sessions. These discussions are intended to allow minor issues to be resolved where possible prior to formal mediation and hearing, and specifically to facilitate the provision of additional information on the background and context of the request.

Where direct discussions have been successful, the Council will provide a report to the Panel with documentation of the agreed outcomes from the relevant submitters. The Hearing Panel has produced an “outcome of direct discussions” document (to record any agreements reached during direct discussions), which notes that agreements between the parties do not limit the Panel's ability to make recommendations, or the Council's ability to make decisions on these recommendations, any agreed matters are likely to be implemented.

Direct discussions have been held for Topics 019 – Natural features, landscape and character, Topic 023 – SEA and vegetation management and Topic 025 – Trees, with a session being scheduled for Topic 032 – Historic heritage schedules on 18 June 2015. A summary of the agreed outcomes from direct discussions held follows below:   

Topic 019 – Natural features, landscape and character

The Council will undertake reassessment or remapping of certain Outstanding Natural Features (ONF), Outstanding Natural Landscapes (ONL), Outstanding Natural Character (ONC) and High Natural Character (HNC) overlay areas. Agreement was reached on the foregoing matters:

  • The following ONLs will be reassessed: ONL 62 at 70 Kawakawa-Orere Road will be remapped (to ridgeline) to exclude the catchment of exotic forest; and the ONL at Awana Settlement on Great Barrier Island. 
  • The following mapping errors will be addressed: NZTA will provide information to the Council on where it considers mapping errors have occurred; and on ONF areas where there are identified mapping errors (for instance the St Lukes interchange), and Council officers will review these.  Also, a minor technical mapping error where the ONFs in the GIS slightly overlap with property boundaries in respect of two sites (Auckland District Health Board properties at 2 Park Road, Grafton and 210 Greenlane Road West) will be corrected so that they do not appear as an overlay on property searches. 
  • The ONL/ONC/HNC descriptions will be amended to include reference to existing marine farms within those areas. The ONL will also be removed from Pakihi Island. 

Topic 023 – SEA and vegetation management

The issues raised were primarily concerning the extent of the Significant Ecological Area (SEA) overlay, and the following revisions were agreed:

  • The Council has agreed to reductions/removals from the SEA overlay, in some cases, to property boundary lines.
  • In specified cases, where vegetation has been cleared consistent with resource consent, the Council has agreed to remove the SEA notation in relation to the area already cleared.   
  • The Council has changed the SEA (M2) notation applying to Long Bay Okura Marine Reserve to SEA (M1).  
  • If the Council decides not to pursue the addition of a SEA overlay on Kawau Island, there will need to be consequential amendments to the Kawau Island precinct.
  • The Council will reassess the boundaries of the SEA overlay in relation to specified properties in the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area.
  • The Council has agreed that areas of plantation forest should not be included in the SEA layer, subject to a Council Ecologist's assessment.  

Topic 025 – Trees

The Council undertook to consider removal of specific scheduled trees and otherwise, to reassess the classification of certain notable trees in light of the scheduling criteria.

Upcoming deadlines

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

  • Topic 043 / 044 (Transport) – 20-22 May
  • Topic 046 (Water Quality & Quantity) – 18, 20-22 & 26-28 May
  • Topic 047 (Lakes, rivers, streams) – 25 May
  • Topic 058 (Public Space) – 18-19 May
  • Topic 061 (Retirement and Affordability) – 25-26 May & 4-5 June
  • Topic 025 (Trees) – 29 May & 11-12 June
  • Topic 040 (Lighting, noise and vibration), for noise only, if required – 29 May
  • Topic 049 (Discharges, stormwater and wastewater) – 2-5 & 15-17 June
  • Topic 051 (Centre Zones) / Topic 052 (Business Park and Industries Zone) / Topic 53 (Business Activities) / Topic 54 (Business Controls) – 8-12 & 29-30 June
  • Topic 023 (SEA and Vegetation Management) – 15, 16 & 19 June
  • Topic 19 (Natural features, landscape and character) – 17 & 22 June
  • Topic 048 (Aquifers and groundwater) – 18-19 June
  • Topic 076 (Major recreation zones and precincts) – 23-26 June
  • Topic 059 (Residential objectives and policies) / Topic 060 (Residential activities) / Topic 062 (Residential development) / Topic 063 (Residential controls and assessment) [Workshop] – 22-26 June
  • Topic 022 (Natural Hazards and flooding) – 29-30 June

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

  • Topic 041 (Earthworks) – 19-22 May
  • Topic 038 (Contaminated Land) – 25 May
  • Topic 036 (Maori land and treaty) – 26 May
  • Topic 037 (Mana Whenua sites) – 2-4 & 8-9 June
  • Topic 055 (Social infrastructure) – 8-9 June
  • Topic 039 (Hazardous substances and ITA) – 10 & 15 June
  • Topic 029 (Special Character/030 Pre 1944) – 11-12, 16 & 19 June
  • Topic 056 (Rural objectives and policies) / Topic 057 (Rural activities and controls) – 22-24 & 26 June
  • Topic 042 (Infrastructure) – 25 June
  • Topic 020 (Viewshafts) – 29-30 June

Please refer to the provisional Hearings Schedule for further details.


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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.

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