Private Plan Changes

Any person may request a change to a regional or district plan which is called a ‘private plan change’. Only a local authority or Minister of the Crown may request a change to a regional policy statement. 744

A request for a private plan change needs to made in writing to the appropriate local authority and include: 745

  • The purpose of the proposed plan change
  • The reasons for the proposed plan change
  • The content of the proposed plan change
  • An evaluation report prepared in accordance with section 32
  • An assessment of the anticipated environmental effects of the proposed plan change taking into account the requirements of schedule 4

Within 20 working days of receiving the application, the local authority may request further information to be provided in regards to: 746

  • The effects on the environment
  • Ways in which any adverse effects may be mitigated
  • The benefits, costs, efficiency and effectiveness and any possible alternatives to the request
  • The nature of any consultation undertaken

The applicant for the private plan change can decline to provide the additional information requested and require the local authority to proceed with considering the application. In this case the local authority can decline the plan change on the grounds that it has insufficient information to enable it to consider or approve the plan change.

The local authority may also commission a report in relation to a proposed private plan change. 747

The local authority is required, within 30 working days of receiving the request and any additional information asked for, to decide how to deal with the request. It may either: 748

  • Adopt the request as if it were a proposed policy statement or plan made by the local authority itself
  • Accept the request
  • Deal with the request as though it were an application for a resource consent
  • Reject the request

Where the local authority adopts the request, it must be publicly notified within four months and will then go through the normal plan change procedure that applies to changes proposed by a local authority.

Where the local authority accepts the request, it must prepare the change in consultation with the person who made the request and publicly notify it within four months. 749  The normal plan change procedure applies in this case with some small alterations, including sending copies of all submissions to the person who made the request and giving the person who made the request the right to appear before the local authority and the Environment Court without lodging a submission or appeal. 750

A request can be rejected on the grounds that: 751

  • It is frivolous or vexatious
  • The local authority or Environment Court has considered the substance of the request within the last two years
  • The request is not in accordance with sound resource management practice
  • The request would make the policy statement or plan inconsistent with the provisions of the Resource Management Act relating to plans (Part 5)
  • The policy statement or plan has been operative for less than two years

The limited grounds for rejection reflect the presumption that private plan change applications will be determined on their merits (through the local authority or private plan change process) unless one of the grounds above is made out. 752

The expression “sound resource management practice” has not been defined. The  High Court has accepted that the expression “must inevitably involve a merits assessment and a private plan change that does not accord with the purpose and principles of the RMA will not cross the threshold for acceptance or adoption. In the case before the High Court the timing of the request (within months of the operative plan becoming obsolete) meant that it offended against sound resource management practice. 753

A decision by the local authority to adopt or accept the request in part only, to deal with the request as though it were an application for resource consent, or reject part of or the entire request can be appealed to the Environment Court within 15 working days of receiving the decision. 754

Preparing a request for a private plan change is often a costly exercise which requires preparation of a comprehensive assessment of environmental effects and section 32 analysis. The council can also charge the applicant the full costs of processing the application. Applicants will also need to support the proposed private plan change through a council hearing and possibly an Environment Court hearing. The average cost for a small site-specific private plan changes is around $50,000 and a large scale private plan change can cost around $1 million. Applicant’s may also be subject to an award of costs if they appeal the local authority's decision not to adopt the plan change after the notification and hearing process and lose.

  1. Clause 21 Schedule 1 Resource Management Act 1991

  2. Clause 22 Schedule 1 Resource Management Act 1991

  3. Clause 23 Schedule 1 Resource Management Act 1991

  4. Clause 23 Schedule 1 Resource Management Act 1991

  5. Clause 25 Schedule 1 Resource Management Act 1991

  6. Clause 26 Schedule 1 Resource Management Act 1991

  7. Clause 29 Schedule 1 Resource Management Act 1991

  8. Clause 25 Schedule 1 Resource Management Act 1991

  9. Countdown Properties (Northlands) Ltd v Dunedin CC [1994] NZRMA 145

  10. Malory Corporation Ltd v Rodney District Council  [2010] NZRMA 392, at [83-99]

  11. Clause 27 Schedule 1 Resource Management Act 1991

Last updated at 10:59AM on December 15, 2014