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8. Overall Trends

One urban design sub-criterion was addressed in all of the 25 plans assessed.

  • Custodianship: avoids or mitigates the effects of natural and man-made hazards.

The following urban design sub-criteria were addressed by more than 75 per cent of all the plans assessed:

  • amenity: urban amenity values
  • character: protection and enhancement of urban water bodies, identification and protection of distinctive landforms, identification, protection and enhancement of indigenous vegetation
  • commerce: mixed use, design controls in town centres
  • connectivity: provisions that promote walking, cycling and different modes of transport
  • heritage: provision of a heritage place register, responding to heritage values of an area
  • open space: policy framework to provide for open spaces, including the provision of a wide range of reserves
  • urban growth management: provisions that provide for the management of urban growth.

The inclusion of several of these is not surprising because they are matters specifically identified in various parts of the RMA. For example, both regional councils and territorial authorities are required to avoid or mitigate natural hazards under sections 30 and 31. Therefore, it is to be expected that all the plans would deal with this.

The matters of national importance in section 6 of the RMA were also reflected in several of the character and heritage sub-criteria in the plans assessed. Under section 6, all councils must ‘recognise and provide for’:

  • section 6(a) – the preservation of the natural character of the coastal environment (including the coastal marine area), wetlands, and lakes and rivers and their margins, and the protection of them from inappropriate subdivision, use and development
  • section 6(b) – the protection of outstanding natural features and landscapes from inappropriate subdivision, use and development
  • section 6(c) – the protection of areas of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitats of indigenous fauna
  • section 6(f) – the protection of historic heritage from inappropriate subdivision, use and development.

Similarly, the maintenance and enhancement of amenity values is a matter all councils must ‘have particular regard’ to under section 7(c) of the RMA.

As well as being in section 6, both regional councils and territorial authorities have various functions pertaining to indigenous biological diversity under sections 30 and 31 of the RMA.

8.1  Population-based trends

Under each population-based category (metropolitan, provincial, rural), the regions or districts with the highest populations had the highest percentage of urban design sub-criteria provisions in their planning documents as illustrated in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Urban design sub-criteria by population

Category Name of document Population Percentage of sub-criteria addressed
Regional Auckland Regional Policy Statement 1,300,000 47
Metropolitan Manukau City District Plan 330,000 88
Provincial Tasman Resource Management Plan 47,400 88
Rural Rangitikei District Plan 14,700 58

The more populous districts were also more likely to have introduced plan changes that address urban design issues. These include four metropolitan councils (Manukau, Rodney, Tauranga and Wellington), and two of the three largest provincial councils (Kapiti and Papakura). None of the smaller, rural councils have initiated any urban design related plan changes. This trend likely reflects an increased pressure for urban growth in larger urban areas, compared with less development pressure in smaller towns.

8.2  Growth strategies

Most of the councils that had initiated urban growth related plan changes did so in response to a growth strategy at the regional or sub-regional scale. These include:

There is an increasing trend towards the use of non-statutory urban growth strategies in high-growth population areas. Growth strategies are long-term strategies that provide a comprehensive spatial framework for managing an area’s growth. They can be used to inform RMA documents (as seen in this research), as well as other council plans such as long term council community plans, urban design strategies and regional land transport strategies.

Further information on the use of growth strategies can be found in the Urban Design Toolkit. A case study of the Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy can also be found in Urban Design Case Studies: Local Government. These documents are available on the Ministry for the Environment's website.