Decisions on Wellington City Council’s District Plan

  • Hon Chris Bishop

The Minister Responsible for RMA Reform, Chris Bishop, today released his decision on twenty recommendations referred to him by the Wellington City Council relating to its Intensification Planning Instrument, after the Council rejected those recommendations of the Independent Hearings Panel and made alternative recommendations.

“Wellington notified its District Plan on 18 July 2022 and is using two different processes to make it operative, including the Intensified Streamlined Planning Process (ISPP) to incorporate the Medium Density Residential Standards and policies flowing from the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD). The rest of the District Plan is being prepared using standard processes.

“The Council’s Proposed District Plan was referred to an Independent Hearings Panel which reported to the Council in February this year. The Council then rejected twenty of the Panel’s recommendations, made alternative recommendations, and referred to them to me as the final decision-maker under Schedule 1 of the Resource Management Act 1991. My decisions are final and cannot be appealed.

“I have carefully considered this matter and taken extensive advice from officials. The law requires that I only take into account matters that the Hearings Panel could have taken into account when making its recommendations. I have not commissioned new evidence. I have made decisions on what was put before me.

“I have agreed with the Council’s alternative recommendations in nine instances, relating to development around Adelaide Road, the walkable catchment around the City Centre Zone (including Hay St), character precincts, building heights and controls on the interface of the City Centre Zone and Moir and Hania Street, setbacks for 1-3 residential units, the Johnsonville train line and its walkable catchments, the Kapiti train line walkable catchments, and hydraulic neutrality as it applies to the City Centre Zone.

“The reasons for accepting these recommendations vary depending on the precise issue, but in general, the Council’s recommendations give better effect to the National Policy Statement on Urban Development in that they provide additional capacity for housing and business land, will better achieve a well-functioning urban environment, will better provide for a competitive development market and provide for a more efficient use of land.

“The Council asked me to not upzone the Kilbirnie centre, as was recommended by the Hearings Panel, to allow them to undertake a plan change within one year. I have not accepted this recommendation and have instead accepted the Hearings Panel recommendation. This will apply a 10-minute walkable catchment around the Kilbirnie centre and consequently mean a High Density Residential Zone will apply.

“The Council also asked me to remove ten buildings from the schedule of heritage buildings in the District Plan. However, the question of whether a building should be on the heritage schedule is an evidential one. In the original District Plan that was notified for public consultation, the Council’s position was that the ten buildings in question should be on the heritage schedule. The Council’s own heritage expert and planning officer supported this and provided evidence to this effect to the Hearings Panel. The Hearings Panel therefore recommended the ten buildings be listed or retained on the heritage schedule.

“The Council has not pointed to any evidence to support its reasons for rejecting the Hearing Panel’s recommendations. No expert heritage evidence was lodged by buildings owners.

“Given the evidence before me, and without the ability to seek further evidence, I have therefore agreed with the recommendations of the Hearings Panel in relation to the ten heritage buildings.

“That said, I understand the Council’s position regarding the ten buildings and I have received separate correspondence from the Mayor around making it easier to delist heritage buildings. I have already asked for advice on this matter and I look forward to conversations with her and other councils regarding the issue of heritage and how it impedes development.”

“I thank the Wellington City Council for their work on the District Plan.”

/Public Release. View in full here.