With designations, land is ‘designated’ for specific purposes. Some land, for example, could be set aside for schools; other land for wastewater treatment plants, transport routes, cemeteries, etc. They’re a great planning tool because they enable critical infrastructure and community facilities and give long term investment certainty.
Justine says designations are a strong feature of the RMA for those that can use the provisions, but often haven’t worked as intended because many Councils wanted all the design detail provided upfront in what was originally meant to be a two-step process.
“The idea in the RMA is to file what's called a notice of requirement, where you let a local authority know that you want to secure a piece of land for xyz purpose. Then, you give the detailed design details in a second, outline plan stage.
“Problem is, many Councils have wanted the detail at the start - right down to management plans and the setting of extensive construction conditions, etc. So, in many cases the process has ended up being very onerous.”
WSP is pleased to see the designation process set out clearer in the proposed Natural and Built Environment Bill.
Steph says the proposed legislation is much more explicit around what information is needed in the first step compared with the second step.
“People don't go and designate just for the sake of it. There's a very clear, long-term purpose for doing so. The new legislation features three designation options – a combined, two-step process; a design build process; and route protection.
“Plus, under the bill if a major piece of public works infrastructure has already been provided for in a region’s Spatial Strategy, there’s no need to consider alternative sites, routes or methods in the designation process”.
With this in mind, WSP will watch with interest to see how things change including the proposal that regional planning committees taking on the role of making recommendations on applications.
With some resource consenting aspects not covered by designations – for example, discharges and significant earthworks, Justine is interested to see the relationship with designations will work when the infrastructure chapter of the new National Planning Framework is released.
“Together, these parts of New Zealand’s resource management reform have the potential to be transformational from a planning perspective. WSP is looking forward to seeing the reforms progress as Parliament examines these important pieces of legislation.”