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Looking back, looking forward, planning changes

If you have ever been involved in planning a building, a business or a development the chances are that you have heard of the District Plan, the ‘rule book’ that says what can and can’t be done on land in a District.
Updated: 9/09/2014 12:47 p.m.
Image of Whangarei City.

​Whangarei City.

​The District Plan is constantly on the move, adapting to changes in laws, and community values, climate, technological changes – as many factors as you can imagine. 

Most of these changes require Councils to consult with their communities every time a change is proposed, but it can get a bit confusing because this means there are lots of opportunities to comment on different things.  Today we are outlining the current state of play around the Whangarei District Plan and issues we are consulting about.

A little bit of history

As early as the 1850s New Zealand has had laws about land, buying and selling it, protecting scenery, archaeological sites, reserves, parks and buildings, using land for public purposes, and rules that cover the rights of land owners.

These laws were patchy and often applied to specific places. Towns and cities developed according to the priorities of each generation – usually around transport links like ports, railway stations and cross roads.

In the 1940s Town and Country planning started to be formalised around the world and in the 1950s the Town and Country Planning Act was introduced in New Zealand.  This legislation provided a framework for Districts to use to draw up plans that were relevant to each town or district or region.

In the late 1980s Local government Amalgamation swept the country and district, town and city plans needed to be changed to take in new parcels of land, often parcels that had been controlled by several different ‘plans’ under different Councils.

Councils were required to amalgamate their plans, and in the process of doing this (in consultation with the public) it became clear that the Town and Country Planning Act often restricted activities because of rules, rather than because of the effect the activities would have on an area.

In 1992 the Resource Management Act was introduced, a piece of legislation that required Councils to base their plans on the ways to manage how development affected the environment and resources.

Councils were required to develop new District Plans within 10 years of amalgamation, and this process included lots of consultation with communities, revising and combining plans that already existed, hearings, and court cases.  In some cases, by the time the plan was finally adopted, it was starting to fall out of step with changes in community values, advances in knowledge and technology and new laws.

.... these days

Whangarei District Council has been keeping its plan up to date with plan changes and a rolling review of sections of the plan.  That means every year some sections of the plan are reviewed and put out for public comment, at the same time as new parts of the plan are being developed. 

Sometimes people approach Council wishing to change a plan and sometimes Council announces that it needs to change part of a plan.  When this happens there is public consultation so that everyone can have a say, retaining the plan’s integrity as a document that reflect the wants and needs of the local community.

At the same time as the rolling review is taking place and people are requesting plan changes, other ‘big picture’ and micro-scale plans are being developed that say how land can be used, how priorities should be set and how communities want to develop in our District. 

Looking long term

This Council has used decades of data to predict how our District could and, if it is to thrive, should develop into the next 30 to 50 years.  This is encapsulated in the Whangarei District Growth Strategy: Sustainable Futures 30/50.

It looks at where growth has taken place in the past, where it is likely to expand and shrink in future, and the things that drive those changes, such as the need to protect space for dairy, meat, crops and forestry; or less use of private cars for transport.

30 year timeframe

The 30 year timeframe enables us to plan ahead for major infrastructural developments. It also ties in with national and regional land transport strategies and plans formulated under the Land Transport Management Act 2003.

50 year timeframe

The 50 year timeframe enables us to respond to, and plan for, longer term natural cycles such as climate change, biological change (forestry and fisheries), changes to hydrology and changing land use patterns.

The Strategy identified that our District is likely to develop satellite towns and Rural and Coastal Villages.  That information told Council a lot about how land was going to be used in different parts of the district.  That provided the ability to control some aspects of growth patterns in future to ensure that the things people require could be predicted and provided in an efficient, thought-out way. It meant we could plan ways to manage the effects development has on the nature and culture of our environment. It also indicated that Whangarei City would continue to be the main urban, commercial and business centre for the District and region.

The growth strategy provided an overarching framework for strategies to manage individual issues over the next 20 years. These include the:

  • Coastal Management Strategy
  • Urban Growth Strategy
  • Urban Form and Development Report
  • Open Space Strategy
  • Urban Design Strategy
  • 20/20+ Central City Development Plan
  • a range of structure plans produced for the coast and urban fringes.

Growth Strategy Implementation Plan

To make all these documents work together an implementation plan was developed, outlining key actions, timeframes and costings together with how they will be monitored and reviewed.

Every three years

Every three years Council undertakes a planning round, with the community, developing a plan that will cover the next 10 years generally, and the next three years specifically.  It is called the Long Term Plan and includes income predictions, budgets, work programmes, services and expenses for the next decade.  

Keeping up to date

Times change, and in the years since Sustainable Futures was produced there have been a Global Financial Crisis, the Christchurch earthquake and numerous other forces that have altered some of the predictions in Sustainable Futures.

To keep up to date new information has been analysed and interpreted in the past few months in a document called the Whangarei District Interim Growth Model. It aims to refine the assumptions made in the first document. 

This document shows that Whangarei has a cycle where growth is level for about five years, then rises for about five years, then levels out again.  This pattern has been repeated over about a century. At the moment we are entering a five-year growth phase.

Council can now include these growth rates in its long-term community planning / annual planning process, so that they accurately reflect infrastructural development activity and funding needs within the District.

Key Findings

  • Whangarei District’s population is projected to increase from 76,995 in 2013 to 90,079 in 2028, resulting in an extra 13,084 people, averaging 872 additional people per year.
  • Population growth is forecast to increase by 5.27% between 2013 and 2018, 3.02% between 2018 and 2023 and 7.85% between 2023 and 2028.
  • The average annual growth projections are 1.05% pa from 2013-2018, 0.60% pa from 2018-2023 and 1.57% pa from 2023-2028, averaging 1.1% growth pa.
  • Total dwellings in the Whangarei District are forecast to increase from 35,340 in 2013 to 41,345 in 2028, resulting in an extra 6,005 dwellings, averaging 400 additional dwellings per year.
  • The number of occupied dwellings is expected to increase from 30,204 in 2013 to 35,337 in 2028, resulting in an additional 5,133 occupied dwellings, averaging 342 occupied dwellings per year.
  • The number of unoccupied dwellings is expected to increase from 5,136 in 2013 to 6,008 in 2028, resulting in an additional 872 dwellings or 58 unoccupied dwellings per year.
  • The highest increases in population between 2013-2028 are expected to be in Marsden Point/Ruakaka, Waipu, Tikipunga West and Te Hihi.
  • The total business floor area is expected to increase from 1,231,394m2 in 2013 to 1,440,619m2 in 2028, averaging 13,948 m2 per annum.

While all this is going on, things are happening around us

Because, broadly speaking, the District Plan says where people can go and settle, where they can farm, have factories, plants, shops, businesses, homes, it needs to keep pace with all the changes happening around us. 

The plan has a rolling review, where every aspect of it is looked at over a 10-year cycle, and Council and the Public are also able to request that changes be made to the plan as the District evolves.   That brings us to Plan Changes.  The following document shows the changes currently being reviewed and what stage each has reached.

Plan changes progress chart [468kb] Opens in a new window.

Plan Change consultation on now

Council is currently consulting on three plan changes, the Kamo Walkability Environment (PC120), the Bulk Format Retail Environment (Okara Park) (PC 130) and Genetically Modified Organisms (PC 131).

Work has also begun on a plan change to do with Sites of Significance to Maori.

Kamo Walkability Environment

Council is proposing to change the zoning of the Kamo commercial area and surrounding residential areas to allow for growth within a compact walkable area.

Copies of the Kamo Walkability Environment Plan Change have been mailed out to residents, businesses and landowners within or adjoining the plan change area.

Full details of the plan change are also available on this website.   

Join the conversation on facebook:

Okara Bulk Format Retail Environment (BFRE)

Council is also proposing to change the District Plan to zone an area around the Okara Shopping Centre and Old Boys Rugby Club for Bulk Format Retail. 

Bulk Format Retail is an area of large, industrial-style buildings or stores with footprints that generally range from 2000 square metres to 20,000 square metres. If you have visited Albany recently, the area including the Warehouse, Ezibuy and Rebel Sport is a bulk format retail area.

In Whangarei this sort of development has started at the Tarewa Centre and Okara. This plan change seeks to consolidate this kind of development around the Okara shopping centre, by zoning about 20,000 square metres of land there for this purpose.

The proposed plan change includes objectives, policies and rules for the Environment, land use and subdivision provisions and updated District Plan maps – denoting the BFRE. The proposed Environment has a precinct plan to guide development and facilitate good urban design outcomes.

For more information on the proposed Plan Change 131: Okara Bulk Format Retail Environment, follow the link below.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)

The Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) Plan Change has been developed collaboratively over the past 10 years.

During this time the community has voiced concerns to the Council on the risks of the outdoor use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in a number of different forums.

In response to these concerns an Inter-Council Working Party (‘the Working Party’) on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management Options was formed in 2003. The Working Party is made up of the councils in Northland and Auckland.

The Working Party determined that GMOs are a significant resource management issue in the northern region and that a precautionary approach to the outdoor use of GMOs is desired by the community.

Plan change 131 proposes to insert a new chapter and new definitions into the Whangarei District Council Operative District Plan.

For more on the proposed plan change, click on the following links.

Any of the proposed plan changes may be inspected at Whangarei District Council Service Centres at:

  • Forum North, Rust Avenue, Whangarei;
  • Ruakaka Service Centre, Takutai Place, Ruakaka;
  • Whangarei Central Library, Rust Avenue, Whangarei;
  • Kamo Library, Kamo Road, Kamo;
  • Onerahi Library, Commins Road, Onerahi;
  • Tikipunga Library, Paramount Parade, Tikipunga;
  • and on this website

Please contact Council’s Policy and Monitoring Department if you have any questions about any of the proposals.


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