Urban planning faces major overhaul

  • 04/09/2017
National leader Bill English
National leader Bill English

Urban planning would get a major overhaul and come under new legislation in a plan by National to encourage faster developments and better environmental protections.

It would move urban planning away from the Resource Management Act, which has undergone controversial reforms and even been bypassed on occasion.

Extensive work has already been done by the Productivity Commission, but National leader Bill English expects another two or three years work is still needed - though he's hopeful changes could be in place by the end of the next term of Government.

"There's now a broad consensus that if we're going to have growing cities with high environmental standards and maintain the strength of the economy then we need to look at a separate urban planning system that is separate from the RMA," he said.

Mr English said the RMA hadn't dealt well with dynamic, growing cities but National wouldn't repeal it.

Instead the legislation would sit alongside, applying to urban areas with a population greater than 20,000 to 30,000.

"We would anticipate creating an urban planning process which deals with the issues around infrastructure, housing density ... whereas the RMA is designed to deal with the broader environmental standards across our whole environment," he said.

The Productivity Commission has put out a 500-page report which would form the basis of the new legislation, but Mr English said while there's a strong consensus for change there would need to be a consensus on all aspects of the way forward.

"We'd get started straight away. A number of years work have been done and I would imagine over the next two or three years we would make considerable progress, bearing in mind you have to turn all of this into legislation, and that takes a bit of time," he said.

"It would be done in the next term"

National also hopes to get a consensus in Parliament on the new legislation, meaning talks with not only support partners but opposition parties, if it wins a fourth term in Government.

The policy was announced at a Business NZ event in Wellington on Monday and the organisation has backed the plan.

Chief executive Kirk Hope said the RMA wasn't allowing urban development to match growth.

"Separating the planning functions for the built and the natural environments will better achieve the objectives of each of these," he said.

The proposed legislation would also have the broad support of the Green Building Council who support measures that improve quality or urban developments.

"Any new planning legislation should make cities more liveable, less car dependent, improve public transport and improve the public amenities needed when cities densify such as parks and schools," chief executive Andrew Eagles said.