Best Practice Planning

Regional and district plans should include the following to preserve natural character:

(1) Identify areas with outstanding and high natural character

Identify areas within the coastal environment (including the coastal marine area) and freshwater environments that have outstanding and high natural character and provide spatial information on these in planning documents:

  • Assess natural character within freshwater and marine environments, together within contiguous margins and land areas
  • Identify areas with outstanding and high natural character on planning maps
  • Provide a detailed description of the values of these areas
  • Provide freely available technical reports during plan consultation stages

(2) Restrict subdivision and development in areas with outstanding and high natural character

Policy 13 of the NZCPS requires adverse effects to be avoided where there is outstanding natural character and significant adverse effects to be avoided on natural character elsewhere in the coastal environment. A similar standard should be applied to natural character in freshwater environments (outside the coastal environment). Achieving this requires clear and robust policy and plan provisions:

  • Use strategic planning to identify areas where subdivision and development is inappropriate and where it will be provided for
  • Include clear policies which identify where areas of high and natural character are located and what activities must be excluded from them
  • Avoid adverse effects on areas of outstanding natural character through applying prohibited or non-complying activity status to subdivision, development and other incompatible activities
  • Avoid significant adverse effects on areas of high natural character through identifying what activities will have significant adverse effects and applying prohibited or non-complying activity status 

Example: Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan

Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan

(3) Provide appropriate objectives, policies and rules to address impacts on natural character in other areas

Include objectives, policies and rules which manage the impact of activities on natural character outside of outstanding and high natural character areas:

  • Prepare descriptions of the important natural character elements and features present within the various parts of the coastal environment within the region or district to guide decision-making
  • Provide assessment criteria in the plan for discretionary activities to facilitate the consideration of natural character impacts during the resource consent process
  • Require impacts on natural character to be addressed in the Assessment of Environmental Effects attached to resource consent applications
  • Rules should restrict the density of development outside settlements within the coastal environment through providing for either very large lot sizes or clustering of smaller lots with a large balance lot
  • Rules should ensure the appropriate location and design of any development which does occur
  • Rules should address a wide range of activities affecting natural character including structures (such as houses, buildings, electricity and telecommunications lines, wind turbines, solar panels), earthworks, mineral extraction, intensive farming, subdivision, transport, commercial or industrial activities, vegetation clearance and marine-based activities

Example: Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan

Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan

(4) Control development in high modified areas of coastal and freshwater environments

Although coastal areas dominated by houses or other structures are not likely to be highly protected, they still require stronger restrictions on development than outside coastal and freshwater environments in order to protect the remaining natural character that is present:

  • Provide greater setbacks from coastal and freshwater edges
  • Provide greater controls on earthworks
  • Restrict site coverage and encourage the use of permeable surfaces
  • Ensure stormwater is well managed and encourage the use of green infrastructure such as open swales and artificially constructed wetlands
  • Ensure adequate supporting infrastructure including wastewater treatment to avoid overflows
  • Avoid stream channelization and encourage restoration of riparian areas
  • Protect trees, in particular indigenous coastal species and indigenous vegetation
  • Encourage replanting of indigenous species
  • Minimise private infrastructure on the coastal or freshwater edge such as sea walls and jetties
  • Restrict domestic pets where native fauna is at risk
  • Require clustering of houses supporting smaller, compact settlements

Example: Bay of Plenty Regional Policy Statement Variation 1

Policy CE 2A: Preserve the natural character of the coastal environment and protect it from inappropriate subdivision, use and development by including provisions in regional and district plans to, and making decisions on resource consents which:…

(f) Encourage efficient use of occupied space through intensification and clustering of developments, rather than sprawling, sporadic or unplanned patterns of settlement and urban growth;

(5) Promote restoration efforts

Set objectives, policies and rules which promote restoration efforts in areas where natural character has been degraded and needs to be restored:

  • Fence stock out of areas of indigenous vegetation and sensitive coastal systems such as riparian areas, the intertidal zone, dunes and wetlands
  • Support the use of local genetic plant stock where practicable
  • Provide for the restoration of dunes, riparian and intertidal margins
  • Support the removal of redundant structures and materials (unless inappropriate for heritage reasons)

Example: Nelson Resource Management Plan

Part II Land Chapter 8 – Margins of Rivers, Lakes, Wetlands and the Coast

Objective 8.2.2 - Maintenance and enhancement of the natural character of the margins of lakes, rivers, wetland and the coast, and the protection of that character from adverse effects of the subdivision, use, development or maintenance of land or other resources, including effects on landform, vegetation, habitats, ecosystems and natural processes.

Policy - To pursue and encourage restoration and enhancement of coastal and riparian areas where natural character has been degraded by past human activities.

Method - Regulatory - (j) Rules to control the effects of the location and bulk of buildings within 200 metres of the coast, including industrial buildings.

Method - Works and Services - (b) Restoration and enhancement of projects on coastal and riparian reserves and other public land, using local indigenous species.

Method - Advocacy and Education - (c) Preparation of a design guide for buildings in the coastal environment area

Method - Investigations and Monitoring - (c) Monitoring of extent and quality of indigenous coastal vegetation, rate of subdivision along coastline and number and type of enhancement projects.

Last updated at 2:14PM on February 25, 2015