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District Plan Changes

What is the Council doing with its rolling review of the District Plan - should you be concerned?

The Whangarei District Plan and Plan Change 85A – D: What is the Council up to now?

Some of you may be aware that the Whangarei District Council (“Council”) is undertaking a rolling review of its District Plan. The District Plan is the document that sets the framework for what you can and can’t do on your property, with or without Council consent. It is prepared under the Resource Management Act 1991, and the Council is required under that Act to review the plan’s provisions at least every 10 years. A “rolling review” simply means the Council will consider and review the plan by sections, so that over a 10 year period each provision of the plan as a whole will have been the subject of a review. In that way, the rules that apply can be progressively amended to take account of changing circumstances and community expectations, before they become too far separated from the contemporary position.

To date, the Council has prepared an Urban Growth Strategy which divided the district into eleven Structure Plan Study Areas. This formed the basis for subsequent plan changes relating to process, and the structure and form of the urban areas of the city. These changes have among other things, introduced an integrated process to facilitate subdivision and development across the district (the Management Plan Technique), and provided for a “buffer” zone at the urban fringes, the Urban Transition Environment, as a way of avoiding the pressures that may arise at the rural/urban interface.

Plan Change 85A – D: the Rural Area

In March last year, the Council completed its Rural Growth Strategy and is currently in the process of consulting on draft provisions for a series of plan changes affecting the rural areas of the district, being that land outside of the Urban Growth Strategy and the Marsden Point/Ruakaka Structure Plan. If you live in those areas of the district currently zoned Countryside and Coastal Countryside Environments then these changes will affect you.

What does Plan Change 85A-D propose?

The current Countryside and Coastal Countryside Environments within the affected area will be replaced with six new Environments (zones) based broadly on the directions identified in the Rural Growth Strategy:

Strategic Rural Industries Environment: to recognise and provide for the ongoing operation of established regionally or nationally significant industries that require a rural location due to specific operational requirements, including infrastructure demands, proximity to resources, and availability of suitable land. This Environment is currently proposed only for the Fonterra Dairy Factory and the Croft Timber Company, both at Kauri, and the Golden Bay Cement Works at Portland. Any further provision will be by way of a plan change.

Rural Living Environment: to recognise clusters of existing lifestyle blocks and provide appropriate locations for rural living in a way that provides for the efficient utilisation of the historic land fragmentation that has occurred throughout the district without compromising the rural character and sustainable use of the rural land resource. To avoid conflicts, industrial activities are prohibited, business activities are discouraged, and residential activities sufficiently separated from industrial or business activities are provided for as permitted activities.

Rural Villages:to manage land use and subdivision in order to consolidate commercial, residential and community facilities within established rural and coastal villages throughout the district. Three different Rural Village Environments are proposed to recognise and protect the various parts of the village settlements:

Rural Village Residential Environment to provide for residential land use and activities within or adjacent to commercial areas in established rural villages.

Rural Village Centre Environment to provide for and protect the commercial centre of the larger rural villages.

Rural Village Industry Environment to recognise and provide for the ongoing operation of existing industrial areas within established rural villages.

Rural Production Environment: to protect the viability of primary production and reduce reverse sensitivity issues it will be applied to the balance of the current Countryside/Coastal Countryside Environments once the Rural Living and Strategic Rural Industry Environments are identified and areas on the city fringe within Urban Growth Strategy boundaries excluded. Farming, horticulture, forestry and mineral extraction will take priority over residential, commercial and industrial development. Small scale rural industries servicing the rural community will be encouraged. Rural lifestyle development will be discouraged.

Should you be concerned?

That depends partly on where you live, your philosophy on life and the environment, and what you want to do with the asset that is your land (or just as importantly, what you don’t want your neighbour to do with his or her land!).

Further information on the plan change is available on the Council website.

You might like to think about how these changes may affect you. For example:

In the Rural Production Environment

  • Are you a farmer thinking about retirement and want to stay on your land? The proposed subdivision rules in the Rural Production zone seek to restrict “retirement lot” type subdivision around existing units to no more than one additional title with a minimum area of 2000m2 and a balance area of 80ha in any 10 year period as a discretionary activity.
  • Do you want to subdivide your land? Subdivision as a controlled activity requires lots of minimum net site area of 80ha (currently 20ha); subdivision to a minimum net site area of 20ha would require discretionary activity consent. Minor residential units cannot be subdivided off from the principal unit.
  • Do you want to construct another residential dwelling? It is proposed that residential density be decreased to one residential unit per 40ha of net site area (currently 1 unit per 20ha).

In the Strategic Rural Industry Environment

  • Is redevelopment a possibility? The plan change encourages use of the Management Plan Technique as a discretionary activity. Prior to the approval of a Management Plan for existing strategic industries, discretionary activity consent is required but with specified exemptions to allow for ongoing existing use rights.
  • Are you considering establishing a regionally or nationally significant industry that requires a rural location? A plan change will be required to rezone the land unless the activity is to be located within the zone at Kauri and Portland. The Management Plan Technique is mandatory for any future Strategic Rural Industries.
  • Activities and subdivision in accordance with an approved management plan are permitted, those not in accordance with the Management Plan require non complying activity consent.

In the Rural Living Environment

  • What if you live in an area of fragmented land titles but your land has not been included in the Environment? Take the opportunity to comment on the draft plan change and show why it should be within the zone!

In the plan change area generally

  • Are the rules and other provisions clear and unambiguous? Do you understand them/know what you can and can’t do on your land? Why isn’t the minimum lot size required for subdivision the same as that required for residential units?

Should you get involved?  My answer is Yes!

It is only by getting involved that you can make sure the District Plan reflects what you (and the rest of the community) want.

The Council is seeking feedback. Comments should be made on the form found on the Council’s website and will be received until 4pm on Friday, 13 February 2015.

Do you need to get a solicitor involved? No!

This is a call for your ideas and comments on what is being proposed. It is an informal process that gives the Council feedback on what they thought they knew the community wanted – but actually didn’t, or maybe they did. Without your feedback they won’t know.

In saying that, I would be pleased to answer any queries you may have and to assist you in making your comments.