Best Practice Planning

Regional policy statements, regional plans and district plans should include the following in order to protect outstanding natural landscapes and features and maintain amenity values.

(1) Identify outstanding natural landscapes and features, together with areas that have high or specific amenity values

  • Carry out a regional or district wide assessment of landscapes and features
  • Identify outstanding natural features and landscapes on planning maps
  • Identify areas of high or specific amenity value on planning maps
  • Provide a detailed description of the attributes and values which make each of these areas important
  • Make technical reports freely available during plan consultation

The High Court has clarified that outstanding natural landscapes must first be identified and then objectives and policies are formulated to protect them.  Identification and mapping of outstanding landscapes precedes and drives planning provisions. 4190

 (2) Develop objectives, policies and methods to protect landscapes, features and high or specific amenity values

  • Clearly state the future desired outcome for the identified landscapes, features and amenity values
  • Clearly describe which activities are likely to be inappropriate
  • Policies should make it clear how future outcomes will be achieved, including what effects should be avoided within specific landscapes and on individual features
  • Methods should provide incentives for voluntary action to protect and enhance landscape areas, such as covenanting land against future subdivision, fencing areas of indigenous vegetation, replanting indigenous vegetation, protecting riparian margins and protecting heritage sites
  • Methods should provide guidance in relation to protecting and managing landscapes and features, for example via design guidelines and education programmes
  • Plans must indicate how the effectiveness of such protection mechanisms will be monitored and how plan provisions will be reviewed in light of such monitoring

Example: Waikato Regional Policy Statement

The Waikato Regional Policy Statement contains objectives, policies and methods which provide for the identification, protection and management of outstanding natural features and landscapes and areas of amenity value.

Policy 12.4 - Maintain and enhance areas of amenity value

Areas of amenity value are identified, and those values are maintained or enhanced.  These may include:

a)  areas within the coastal environment and along inland water bodies;
b)  scenic, scientific, recreational or historic areas;
c)  areas of spiritual or cultural significance;
d)  other landscapes or seascapes or natural features; and
e)  areas adjacent to outstanding natural landscapes and features that are visible from a road or other public place

Method 12.4.1 - Maintain and enhance areas of amenity value

Regional and district plans shall ensure that:

a)  areas of amenity value to regional or district communities are:
      i)  identified using accepted criteria and methodologies; and
      ii)  appropriately recognised;
b)  the qualities and characteristics for which they are valued are maintained or enhanced;
c)  subdivision, use and development is managed to avoid, remedy or mitigate adverse effects on the identified values of areas of amenity value; and
d)  when recognising and providing for areas of amenity value, consideration shall be given to the changing and evolving nature of land management practices that means the visual amenity values may also change. 

(3) Develop rules and consent conditions to control subdivision, use and development

  • Exclude activities with adverse effects from outstanding natural landscapes and features
  • Exclude activities with adverse effects from sensitive areas including headlands and prominent ridgelines in other natural landscapes and features
  • Integrate activities into the landscape by controlling key matters such as the location, intensity, size, design and colour of buildings together with related landscaping, vegetation clearance, earthworks and buffers/setbacks:
    • Size: control of the floor area and height of structures to limit effects related to their scale and mass; 
    • Design: utilise such methods as the stepping or breaking up of buildings into several smaller blocks, wings or components to help reduce the overall bulk and scale of any structure or building;
    • Colour and materials: incorporate non-reflective materials and colours that relate to the hues of local vegetation, rocks and soils;
    • Landscaping: require rehabilitation of a site through planting after completion of the works;
    • Vegetation clearance: limit the extent and type of vegetation clearance;
    • Earthworks: limit the extent and type of earthworks;
    • Buffers/setbacks: maintain some distance between the important sites and the works being undertaken;
    • Require development to protect and appropriately respond to the open space, character and patterns of the landscape; and
    • Impose covenants and require the provision of esplanade reserves, strips or reserve contributions.
  • Address the cumulative impacts of activities through controls on subdivision and the intensity of development. 
  • Identify where certain activities will be inappropriate and apply prohibited or non-complying activity status and clearly state that such activities will be contrary to the objectives and policies of the plan
  • Identify where certain activities may be inappropriate without consideration of effects through a consent process and apply non-complying or discretionary activity status
  • List assessment criteria which clearly identify matters to be considered by a resource consent decision maker (such as visibility from public land, roads, or the sea).

Example: Proposed Thames-Coromandel District Plan

The Proposed Thames-Coromandel District Plan identifies subdivision, afforestation, mining and other activities as inappropriate in areas identified as outstanding natural landscapes and applies non-complying or prohibited activity status.

  1. Man O’War Station Limited v Auckland Council [2015] NZHC 767 at [59]. 

Last updated at 4:31PM on January 8, 2018