Government aims to fast-track urban development

12 February 2020

​​​​​The Urban Development Bill is part of a suite of legislative changes proposed by government to address the challenges resulting from population growth, inadequate supply of housing, and the need for infrastructure to enable urban development.

The Bill establishes a specified development project (SDP) process, with Kāinga Ora as the key driver, which allows selected urban development projects to access special development powers to 'fast-track' urban development.

Broadly, the process established by the Bill involves an initial feasibility assessment by Kāinga Ora to identify high level constraints and opportunities arising from an urban development project. Following consultation, this assessment is then provided to Ministers who make a decision as to whether the project should be established as a SDP. Next, a development plan is prepared which identifies the proposed land uses, indicative development densities and necessary infrastructure to support the development.

One of the most significant powers provided by the Bill is that the development plan may set out modifications to the objectives, policies, methods or rules in planning instruments to enable the project objectives to be achieved. These modifications can be wide reaching (although must be within the scope of what is provided for in plans and policy statements) and provide a mechanism to amend existing plans without using the standard plan change processes under the Resource Management Act 1991.

Under the Bill, the public will be able to lodge submissions on a draft development plan and submitters, have a right to be heard by an independent hearings panel, with limited appeal rights to the High Court on questions of law.

Once a development plan is in place, Kāinga Ora will enjoy significant powers including:

  • Becoming the consent authority for any resource consent applications within the project area (and the territorial authority for the purposes of considering notices of requirement)
  • Being able to exercise infrastructure powers set out in the development plan, which may include taking on the roading powers relating to a SDP
  • The ability to construct and alter (but not operate) water supply, wastewater and drainage infrastructure
  • The mandate to use various funding mechanisms including setting development contributions and targeted rates to fund infrastructure
  • Being recognised as an approved network utility operator and a requiring authority, with the ability to seek designations to carry out activities both within and outside the project area
  • The power to undertake works within an existing designation without obtaining the consent of the requiring authority
  • The ability to acquire land for works for the purposes of urban development.

These wide-ranging powers seek to claim back much of the control from local government and place this firmly with a government agency. While we expect there to be benefits in these functions being undertaken within one organisation, the Select Committee will need to carefully consider whether these powers adequately consider other competing interests and constraints, including those of other infrastructure providers.

If implemented well, the changes should enable integrated infrastructure provision and assist in getting much needed urban development projects off the ground.

Submissions on the Bill close on Friday 14 February.

If you have any questions on the matters raised in this article, please get in touch with the contacts listed or your usual Bell Gully advise​r.​

Disclaimer: This publication is necessarily brief and general in nature. You should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication.