Enabling faster plan changes to support Cyclone recovery
In response to the effects of Cyclones Hale and Gabrielle and heavy rain events early this year, a temporary change to how specified can councils to make changes to their relevant regional policy statement, district, regional, or unitary plan has been developed.
Te Tūāpapa Kura Kāinga – Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has prepared an Order in Council (Order), under the Severe Weather Emergency Recovery Legislation Act 2023 (SWERLA). The Order allows the specified councils to use a modified version of the Streamlined Planning Process (SPP) to prepare a plan change, without the need to apply or receive direction from the Minister for the Environment. This is be a temporary change (for 3 years) that will support local authorities during the recovery from the recent extreme weather events.
Why is this necessary?
The severe weather events have damaged over 1,800 houses in Te Tai Tokerau, Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti. Some of these houses will be able to be repaired and rebuilt on their current property. However, some residents will be permanently displaced from their houses. Their houses may not be repairable, or they may not feel safe returning to houses that were damaged, and they may seek to move to locations less at risk from natural hazards, including severe weather events. Councils need to ensure that there is enough housing capacity within their plans for this increased demand. Some iwi and hapū are developing plans so that they can support their own whānau through the recovery.
The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) requires councils to develop planning documents that manage where new housing can be developed. Plans usually need changes (such as rezoning areas so they can be used for residential housing) to enable new housing and papakāinga to be established. The Order provides a quicker plan change process to assist with the provision or housing for the people who have been permanently displaced.
Who can use the Streamlined Planning Process?
The councils covered by this order are those in Te Tai Tokerau, Tairāwhiti and Hawke’s Bay:
- Central Hawke’s Bay District Council
- Far North District Council
- Gisborne District Council
- Hastings District Council
- Hawke’s Bay Regional Council
- Kaipara District Council
- Napier City Council
- Northland Regional Council
- Wairoa District Council
- Whangarei District Council
These councils have been identified as those whose areas were the most affected by the severe weather events. These areas were already experiencing housing shortages and low-quality housing stock, and this situation was exacerbated by the impacts of the severe weather events. These areas also had the worst damage to their housing stock.
Other councils affected by the severe weather events remain able to apply to use the Streamlined Planning Process as it stands in the RMA to progress any needed plan changes.
What is in the Order?
The Order enables the councils specified above to use the Severe Weather Emergency Recovery Streamlined Planning Process (SWER-SPP) to implement plan changes that enable housing or papakāinga that supports the local recovery aspirations (such as those identified in a recovery plan).
The SWER-SPP operates similarly to the standard SPP. However, unlike the standard SPP, Ministerial direction is not required in order to use the SWER-SPP. Instead of Ministerial direction, the process councils must follow for the SWER-SPP is be set out in the Order.
Councils utilising the SWER-SPP must:
- Notify the Minister for the Environment before 1 July 2024 of their intention to use the SWER-SPP;
- Consult affected parties on the proposed planning instrument, including the Minister for the Environment and iwi authorities (unless consultation has already been undertaken and this may be under another process such as the development of a recovery plan);
- Publicly notify the proposed plan change;
- Provide an opportunity for written submissions;
- An independent panel hold a hearing (unless none is required) and consider the submissions;
- Produce a report showing how submissions have been considered and the changes (if any) made to the notified plan change;
- Produce an evaluation report or reports on the proposed plan change under sections 32 and 32AA of the RMA; and
- The local authority will provide the proposed plan change, a summary of submissions and the reports of the hearing panel to the Minister for the Environment by 20 May 2026.
In making a decision on a proposed plan change made through the SWER-SPP, the Minister must consider whether:
- The council has followed the direction set out in the Order;
- The proposed planning change complies with any National Direction; and
- The proposed planning change meets the requirements of the RMA and Regulations.
If approved by the Minister, the final decision will be notified by the Council and the planning change becomes operative.