First National Planning Standards released

On Friday 5 April 2019 the Government released the first set of National Planning Standards (“Planning Standards”).

The purpose of the Standards is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the planning system by providing nationally consistent:

  • structure;

  • format;

  • definitions;

  • noise and vibration metrics; and

  • electronic functionality and accessibility

for regional policy statements, regional plans, district plans and combined plans under the RMA.

The Planning Standards will require major changes to RMA plans in most cases and will have significant impacts for councils and plan users.

Further information is available at MfE’s Planning Standards webpage here. We also set out a detailed analysis of the Standards in our earlier article on the Draft Planning Standards (as they were then) here. Below is a brief summary of the Planning Standards.

The Standards

The first set of Planning Standards includes the following 17 Standards:

1.       Foundation Standard

2.       Regional Policy Statement Structure Standard

3.       Regional Plan Structure Standard

4.       District Plan Structure Standard

5.       Combined Plan Structure Standard

6.       Introduction and General Provisions Standard

7.       District-wide Matters Standard

8.       Zone Framework Standard

9.       Designations Standard

10.     Format Standard

11.     Regional Spatial Layers Standard

12.     District Spatial Layers Standard

13.     Mapping Standard

14.     Definitions Standard

15.     Noise and Vibration Metrics Standard

16.     Electronic Accessibility and Functionality Standard

17.     Implementation Standard

Rationale

As we outlined in our 2018 article (available here) planning standards as a concept was introduced as part of the 2017 amendments to the RMA to address concerns that plans are often inconsistent with each other, costly to prepare, and complex to navigate (because councils generally develop plans independently and without a common structure and format). Planning standards were also conceived to address concerns that wide variation in the structure and format of planning documents has resulted in national-level planning documents like national policy statements being interpreted and implemented inconsistently, reducing their effectiveness.

Implementation timeframes

The Implementation Standard specifies the timeframes applying to the first set of Planning Standards. Different timeframes apply to different Standards and different councils. In summary:

  • all councils need to meet the basic electronic accessibility and functionality requirements within one year;

  • regional councils have three years to adopt the Standards for regional policy statements, and ten years for regional plans;

  • unitary councils need to adopt the Standards within ten years; and

  • city/district councils generally have five years to adopt the Planning Standards, with seven years for the Definitions Standard (city/district councils who have recently completed a plan review have seven and nine years respectively).

Separate timeframes apply for the adoption of online interactive plans (ePlans).

Implementation process

The vast majority of the directions in the Planning Standards are mandatory for councils, meaning councils must implement the directions in their plans with no consultation process. Local authorities may also make “consequential amendments”, required as a result of implementing the Standards, without any consultation process.  The only direction that is discretionary (meaning several options are provided, and councils must select at least one option through a formal consultative process under the RMA) relates to the Zone Framework Standard.

Feel free to contact ChanceryGreen if you would like to discuss how the Planning Standards may affect you or your business.

Posted on April 9, 2019 .