Urban Development Authorities

It appears widely accepted that changes are needed to address housing supply, rising house prices and a growing population. In answer to these concerns, the Government is considering new legislation that would:

  1. Empower nationally or locally significant urban development projects to access more enabling development powers and land use rules; and
  2. Establish new urban development authorities to support these projects where required.

Minister for the Environment, Nick Smith, said that this initiative is part of the Government’s ongoing and comprehensive programme to grow the economy and improve housing supply and affordability. Urban development authorities are proposed which are intended to support these goals by enabling better quality and faster regeneration of our cities.

Earlier this year, the Government released a discussion document for feedback (now closed). The consultation document can be viewed in full here.

What is it?

The new legislation would allow streamlined land acquisition, planning and consent processes by appointing urban development authorities (UDAs) to manage specific urban development projects.

UDAs will be allocated powers which allow them to assemble parcels of land, override regional and district plans and fund projects. Powers would be granted for a specific project and would expire with the completion of that project. While wide-ranging, powers do not allow Treaty of Waitangi settlements or National Environmental Standards to be breached and they are not available in rural locations.

The powers are only available for projects that strategically important at either a local or national level – they are not available for private developers. There is discretion as to which powers will be granted for a project: depending on its particular circumstances, a UDA, may not necessarily be granted the full range of powers.

How would it work?

When a project is established, the local and central government will consult with the public to form a set of strategic objectives which the Project must work to achieve. Local and central government will agree on a final proposal and put an Order in Council to the Governor General.

Once the Project has been established, UDAs will undertake a public consultation exercise. The UDA will work with key stakeholders to prepare a development plan for the project, then this will be taken to the local community inviting written submissions. The development plan will set out the strategic objectives and state how the UDA will exercise its powers. It will also include an assessment of environmental effects and set out any conditions imposed. After the feedback stage, the Minister will approve the final development plan at which point development can begin.  

What are the potential issues?

Of course there are risks of shortcutting the consenting process including potentially inadequate consideration of adverse environmental effects. There is no hearing process, no opportunity for expert evidence and reduced opportunity for third party participation. Furthermore, there is no opportunity for appeal.


On the face of it, this new legislation could be the answer we have been looking for to deal with housing supply issues. It has worked in large Australian cities and is an approach used in Singapore and London (a high profile example was the Olympic Delivery Authority). In order for it to be successful it must be implemented carefully. It is important that the scheme finds a balance between enabling development to progress quickly without compromising quality or generating significant adverse effects.  

Posted on July 24, 2017 .