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District Plan Change 23 - What’s it all about?

Mackenzie’s District Plan is currently being updated to ensure the district can grow in a sustainable way, while protecting the things that make the area so special. The Plan became operative in 2004, and many elements are well out of date and do not meet statutory requirements.

One current section being reviewed is known as Plan Change 23 (PC23). This section includes specifications for building a new residential unit.  Under this a minimum site areas of 20 hectares would be required in the Eastern Plains Special Control Area, or 100 hectares in the General Rural Zone (where not identified as being within an Outstanding Natural Landscape (ONL)). A map of the Eastern Plains Specific Control Area is attached. More detailed mapping can be viewed here.

However, the notified PC23 rules also included reduced area limits for a site that existed on 1 November 2023. These are proposed to be 4 hectares in the Eastern Plains Special Control Area and 10 hectares in the General Rural Zone (where not identified as ONL).

Minimum lot sizes have been included to reduce the fragmentation of rural land and to help preserve rural character. This ensures that larger farms can continue to operate and reduces the potential for conflict when residential development occurs in a working rural area.  Residential developments in rural areas usually result in calls for urban infrastructure to be extended into rural areas. This comes at a high cost relative to the number of people benefitting, and has a significant impact on rates across the district. Managing the proliferation of residential properties in rural areas protects ratepayers from bearing the cost of these demands.

If these rules are approved by independent commissioners, building a residential unit on sites less than these minimum areas will require a resource consent from the date of their decision (expected to be late July).

What’s happened so far?

PC23 has been developed by Council through extensive engagement with the community and a wide range of stakeholders, including letters to all landowners. After public notification it went through a further period of statutory consultation, as required by the Resource Management Act, before hearings, which were undertaken in May.

Submissions have been received on the proposed minimum density standards outlined above. The decision on the final provisions currently rests with the Independent Commissioners appointed by Council to make decisions on the District Plan Review. Following the Commissioners’ decision, anyone who has submitted on this issue can appeal to the Environment Court.

There is information circulating in the community that Council has indicated such resource consents “would most likely be denied”. This is not correct. All resource consent applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis.  We expect that a range of applications for residential units on existing smaller rural sites will likely be granted; in other instances, locational constraints may mean residential development of small rural sites is inappropriate.

What can I do if I have concerns about land that I own?

Until the date the Commissioners’ issue their decision (expected late-July) landowners are able to apply for a Certificate of Compliance. This will preserve the right to establish a residential unit on an existing site for a period of 5 years (on the basis that all other existing district plan rules are complied with). Further information and the appropriate application form is available here.

The independent Commissioners have been working through their post hearing deliberations, this is followed by a period of decision-making and report writing. At this point the change will take effect. This process is undertaken entirely independently of Council, who cannot influence the timescale or outcome. For this reason we cannot be more specific about timing other than to say ‘late July’.

If you have any further questions about the rules, or how to apply for a Certificate of Compliance, either consult your professional advisors, or the best way to contact the planning team is by emailing planning@mackenzie.govt.nz.