Tauranga City Council has put a City Plan review on hold until new legislation reform is better defined.
The Resource Management Reform process announced in March saw three new pieces of legislation replacing the current Resource Management Act, which is the main piece of legislation governing city planning.
This was parallel to the Resource Management (Enabling Housing and Other Matters) Amendment Bill, proposing to allow three dwellings of up to three storeys on most sites without a resource consent.
This followed the National Policy Statement on Urban Development in August 2020, requiring councils to enable higher housing density in areas close to rapid transit stops and city centres.
Tauranga City Council Commission Chair Anne Tolley said council planning processes are complex and can be a barrier to speedy development, and that some legislation reform is required.
“Tauranga is in the midst of a serious housing crisis, so we welcome Government initiatives that help get more houses built faster,” she says.
However, these initiatives also put significant pressure on councils to change their planning tools and processes, like district plans, and have implications on current projects underway.
“The reforms have forced us to reconsider several long-running planning projects that we and the community had invested time and effort in.”
This includes the 10-yearly review of the Tauranga City Plan, set to significantly update the district plan; and proposed Plan Change 26: Housing Choice, which aims to enable higher density housing by making it easier for people to build duplexes and townhouses across the city, and apartment blocks in more central areas.
“Our community and numerous partner and stakeholder organisations have put a lot of time and effort into contributing to these processes, so we’ll make sure that we use the information they’ve provided to inform our next steps,” says Anne.
At a Council meeting this week the decision to put the City Plan review project on hold was made, until the new legislation intended to replace the RMA is clearer.
In the meantime, Council says they will undertake a series of individual plan changes to respond to the priority issues facing Tauranga, and to comply with the Government’s national policy direction.
A work programme will be developed in early-2022.
As for Plan Change 26, Council decided to defer the hearings originally scheduled for February 2022, and to assess next steps for the proposed plan change when there is more certainty of the content of the amendment bill, which is expected by mid-December.
“We are seeking to work with our central Government partners on the final drafting of the amendment bill, to enable a pathway for Plan Change 26 to proceed, or an interim approach that allows intensification projects to progress through consenting processes,” says Anne.
“There are areas of our city, like parts of the Te Papa peninsula that are suitable for high density, multi-storey apartment development. Plan Change 26 would enable this level of increased density in suitable areas, with controls to support good urban outcomes. If the amendment bill goes through as it is, it would incentivise low-scale intensification throughout the city instead. This would compromise our ability to generate the kind of urban transformation our growing city needs to deliver."
Council’s submission to central Government on the amendment bill will outline staff and commissioners’ concerns around infrastructure capacity, urban design outcomes, timeframes, resourcing and implications for Plan Change 26: Housing Choice.