The breakneck pace of reform in the planning and environmental space continues in the lead up to Christmas. Last week the Urban Development Bill was introduced to Parliament. This Bill fleshes out the bones of the urban development authority, Kāinga Ora, that was established earlier this year. The Bill details a comprehensive suite of powers that will be given to Kāinga Ora and sets up a specified development project process to streamline complex urban development projects.
Specified development projects will be progressed in a two stage process, with both stages containing opportunities for consultation with key stakeholders and public feedback.
Establishing a specified development project
The first stage is to establish a specified development project (SDP) over a defined project area. In this stage Kāinga Ora is required to provide a project assessment report and recommendation to the joint Ministers (the Minister responsible for the administration of the Act, which is likely to be the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, and the Minister of Finance). A SDP will be established if the joint Ministers accept a recommendation by Kāinga Ora and the project is declared to be established as an SDP by Order in Council. Local authorities, key stakeholders, Māori and the public are all able to be involved in the process to establish an SDP.
City/district and regional councils (both local authorities) will be involved in Kāinga Ora's project assessment. Local authorities are considered to be key stakeholders under the Bill of whom engagement is required as part of Kāinga Ora's assessment of the project. The assessment of the constraints and opportunities for the project also requires assessment of the extent to which the project at a high level aligns with local authority published plans for urban growth. However, only a city/district council (territorial authority) is able to be involved in the recommendation phase. The Bill requires Kāinga Ora to supply a draft of its project assessment report and recommendation to the relevant territorial authority to seek its views on the recommendation and its key features. Territorial authorities are able to state conditions associated with its support (if relevant). In addition, the criteria for the joint Ministers accepting a recommendation of Kāinga Ora include that there is either overall support from relevant territorial authorities or the project is in the national interest.
Māori and other key stakeholders are required to be engaged with as part of Kāinga Ora's assessment. Apart from local authorities, key stakeholders include owners and operators of nationally significant infrastructure, other infrastructure operators identified by Kāinga Ora as infrastructure affected by the project, as well as the Chief Executive of the responsible Ministry, Heritage New Zealand, the Minister of Conservation, police and emergency services. Nationally significant infrastructure covers state highways, electricity transmission and generation, gas transmission, the refinery pipeline, rail network, airports and ports. Notably it does not include water, wastewater or telecommunications infrastructure.
The assessment stage also requires Kāinga Ora to publicly notify the key features of the proposed project and consider the feedback received. There is no public hearing process involved in this stage.
Preparing a development plan
Once an SDP is established, a development plan is required to be prepared outlining the development powers and funding arrangements that will be used for that particular SDP. The toolkit of development powers and funding arrangements available to Kāinga Ora and its partners are extensive and include:
- vetoing or amending resource consent applications and plan changes in the project area before the development plan is operative, following the Order in Council;
- acting as a consent authority at a city or district level and as a requiring authority under the RMA;
- the ability to override, add to or suspend provisions of RMA plans and regional policy statements in the relevant development plan for the area including in relation to designations (albeit a development plan must not go beyond the scope provided for plans or regional policy statements under the RMA);
- building and changing infrastructure;
- use of funding tools for infrastructure and development activities; and
- the ability to levy targeted rates and development contributions.
In preparing a draft development plan, Kāinga Ora is required to:
- have regard to the relevant RMA planning instruments, regional land transport and public transport plans, the long-term plans of relevant local authorities under the Local Government Act 2002, the Urban Design Protocol, iwi planning documents, and emissions reduction or national adaptation plans; and
- consult with specified persons including with owners and occupiers of land within the project area, Māori, and key stakeholders.
The Bill also includes safeguards for Māori interests, environmental and heritage protections and designations for nationally significant infrastructure.
The development plan will go through a public submission and independent hearing process before going to the Minister for approval. Any person who made a submission on a draft development plan may appeal to the High Court on a question of law. The Court of Appeal is set as the final appeal stage.
Kāinga Ora will have land acquisition and transfer powers when undertaking both SDPs and other urban development projects that have broadly consistent safeguards as with the PWA. However, Kāinga Ora may dispose of land without offering it back to the former owner if housing or urban renewal has been undertaken on the land (subject to a right of first refusal).
The Urban Development Bill is a significant piece of legislation that will provide wide ranging powers to Kāinga Ora. It will be important to consider what the Bill may mean for your business and present those views via submissions to the Select Committee. The formal submission period is still to be announced.
Please get in touch with one of our experts if you would like to discuss the Bill in more detail.