What is a Plan Change
A plan change is a change to a District Plan. This is a public process requiring research, evaluation and consultation. A plan change can be initiated by the Council or by members of the public (private plan change). Examples of possible plan changes include:
- Rezoning of land.
- Addition of a building to the schedule of heritage buildings.
- Amendments to rules.
- Implementing Government directions.
Why do councils undertake plan changes?
The Resource Management Act (RMA) requires the provisions in the District Plan to be reviewed every 10 years. However, it is best practice for the District Plan to be regularly reviewed, and the RMA rewires 5 yearly monitoring. We actively monitor the effectiveness of the District Plan and will 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. There are currently 4 pathways:
- The standard consultation (default) pathway. This involves Consultation and community involvement, 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 pocess and timeframes can be modified, and the Minister makes the final decision rather than Council.
What are the steps in the plan change process?
- Initial issue identification and pre-consultation process.
- Plan change and “section 32” RMA report assessing costs and benefits produced.
- Plan change and section 32 approved by the Council for public notification.
- Public notified for submissions (20 working days).
- Public notification of summary of submissions for further submissions (10 working days). 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 there is ongoing monitoring and review.
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 which 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 may make a submission in writing on the prescribed form (form 5) 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). 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.
- The Council will then hold a hearing, if required, so submitters may verbally present their submissions. The hearing panel will be accredited councillors, independent commissioners, or a mix. After the hearing the Council then makes a decision to accept or reject each submission received in whole or in part. The 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 District 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.
What should I think about when making a submission?
The following tips are useful when making submissions. Ensure that you use the appropriate form provided (form 5 or 6) and:
- Make clear and easy to read points.
- Include your contact details.
- Identify whether you wish to speak at the hearing or not.
- Identify if you support or oppose the plan change.
- Detail the specific part of the District Plan your submission is about.
Your submission should not include any issues not relevant to the plan change as these will not be able to be considered by the Council when making its decision. Please note your submission, including your personal information, will be publicly available as part of the Council’s decision-making process.