‘Super City’ Plan recommendations may make a political perfect storm

27 Jul 16

Today the Independent Hearings Panel will publicly release its recommendations to the Auckland Council for the first Auckland Unitary Plan.

View the Panel’s recommendations as they come live here: Understanding the Process

The Unitary Plan is the first resource management plan developed for the Auckland Region since the merger of Auckland’s previous eight district councils into the one super city council. The Plan has been developed through Special Legislation rather than under the Resource Management Act, meaning it has separate timeframes, decision making requirements and appeal processes. The Plan was first notified in September 2013 and has been under intense scrutiny since then through over two years of hearings and mediation and consideration of thousands of submissions.

The Plan will be a comprehensive instrument for most planning matters including zoning and density, urban growth boundaries, public open spaces, volcanic viewshafts, transport and infrastructure.

Recommendations for the Plan from the Independent Panel are not binding on the elected Auckland Council. However any recommendations which the Council does not accept will open up a right of appeal to the Environment Court on the merits of the Plan (for certain submitters). All other recommendations which are accepted may only be appealed on a point of law to the High Court; such as where the Plan is inconsistent with the purpose of the RMA.

Auckland council has been under Significant Pressure from national government to address matters such as urban growth pressures and housing affordability through the plan, including suggestions of removing the contentious urban growth boundary for the city. Additionally, near the end of the Unitary Plan process, government released its proposed National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity, which will have significant implications for Auckland if made operative (as predicted) later this year. See our article on the proposed NPS on Urban Development Capacity here: Councils under (housing) arrest Anderson Lloyd.

Auckland Council has until 19 August 2016 to release its decisions on what recommendations of the Independent Panel are accepted or rejected. Appeals must be brought by 16 September 2016. However those timeframes could slip if Council exercises its one chance to request a 20 day extension from the government. Council Elections are also scheduled for 8 October 2016, potentially making for a political perfect storm.

Some rules of the Plan are already in place with Immediate Legal Effect, however if Council fails to release a coherent decision version it will provide for complex future consenting processes.

To understand the Unitary Plan and how it might affect your interests in Auckland, contact one of our experts in the Environment Planning & Natural Resources Team.

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