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Wellington’s Draft Spatial Plan: What Happens Next

2926 individuals and organisations have made known their views on how and where Wellington’s growing population should be housed over the next few decades.

Mayor Andy Foster describes the response to the City Council’s draft Spatial Plan as a clear illustration of the passion Wellingtonians have for their city and its future. “That passion and knowledge was very clear from the weekend walkabouts I had with local people in many of our communities.

“It was also clear in many community forums called to discuss the Spatial Plan. As expected there are a variety of views coming through, and it will be up to myself, councillors and staff to work through this and ongoing feedback as we develop a Spatial Plan and then seek to incorporate ideas into a new District Plan.”

Submissions on the draft Spatial Plan ended on Monday 5 October following eight weeks of engagement with the community. Engagement events included a pop-up ‘Tiny House’ which visited several suburbs, online events, and community meetings. The submissions were received online, by email and by traditional post. City Council staff are collating and analysing the submissions.

The feedback will shape the final Spatial Plan and will influence the formulation of the city’s next District Plan – the document that sets the rules for the development of the city. The District Plan review process will include two opportunities for the community to have their say on the details of how we should manage future development.

The City Council is required by law to have a District Plan. While the Council has completed over 80 individual plan changes, the current plan has not been reviewed in its entirety since it became operative in 2000. The National Policy Statement (NPS) released in August by the Urban Development Minister requires that District Plans to give effect to the new NPS are notified by August 2022. “This means the clock is ticking and we need to keep working at speed,” says Mayor Foster. “It helps enormously that we’ve have already had three years of staff work and one full round of community engagement leading up to the Spatial Plan consultation.”

Mayor Foster says the draft Spatial Plan has sparked major debate in the community - principally over housing densification and where it should happen, and how we should continue to protect areas of special character in the inner suburbs.

“A further area of discussion has been the implications of the Government’s new National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) which directs councils to enable intensification in and around city centres and within walkable catchments of rapid transit stops, such as railway stations. The Council is required to implement the NPS-UD and this could mean considerable change for suburbs along railway lines such as Johnsonville. Tawa, Khandallah, Ngaio and Crofton Downs.

“We are trying to carefully work through providing for growth while protecting the things we love about our city.”

The Council’s Chief Planning Officer, Liam Hodgetts, says the NPS is new and while it encourages and enables more dense and compact cities, it also seeks to ensure sufficient open space and heritage protection is provided for. Importantly in the short-term, areas of the city that will support growth need to be ‘infrastructure ready’.

He says the Planning for Growth process is developing the evidence base that will ensure the Capital City’s District Plan is fit for the future. Its job is to enable a more accessible and affordable city but retain and strengthen Wellington’s unique character and famous liveability.

Mayor Foster adds: “The draft Spatial Plan engagement is the second of four stages of the Council’s Planning for Growth programme – it is a long process that’ll involve extensive community input and compromise as we move through the District Plan Review phase. There will be some changes to the way the city is zoned – the planning status quo is not a realistic option. But my intention is that the finished District Plan is one that’ll lead to Wellington being an even more attractive and liveable place for thousands of more people.”

Despite the recent recommendations to repeal the RMA as a result of the Tony Randerson QC review, Mayor Foster says: “We need to carry on with the Spatial Plan and District Plan processes because we have statutory deadlines that must be met under the existing legislation within the next few years.

“More importantly, it’s the right thing to do – and essential - if we want to tackle housing shortages and affordability problems, and plan properly for transport and infrastructure improvements. A balance will need to be struck between cost and essential infrastructure investment.”

In terms of the next steps, the draft Spatial Plan submissions will be made available for public perusal on the Council website and all submitters will be notified when these are available for viewing.

Due to the high level of interest, Mayor Foster says submitters will have the opportunity to speak to the Council starting this Wednesday 4 November.

The engagement forums will give all submitters an opportunity to present to Mayor Foster and Councillors or be involved in more informal group discussions with Councillors and staff. The dates for the forums are:

o Wednesday 4 November (full day)

o 18 November (afternoon)

o 19 November (afternoon and evening)

o 26 November (morning).

Mayor Foster says the value of people from different perspectives feeding into the Spatial Plan discussion and acknowledging the opinions of others will hopefully lead to greater community consensus that will ultimately benefit the whole city.

These submissions and the engagement process over the past eight weeks will be used to inform decisions on the Spatial Plan – these decisions will be taken to the Mayor and Councillors in March 2021.

The Spatial Plan will guide the policies and rules contained in the non-statutory Draft District Plan which is due to be released for consultation in mid-July 2021 (this is a new date – it was March so I would like to say mid 2021). This will involve another full engagement process with the public.

The statutory Proposed District Plan will be notified no later than May 2022 where there will be a further opportunity to submit through the statutory RMA process, followed by formal hearings. Decisions on the Proposed District Plan must be made no later than two years after notification, so this will likely be in mid-2024 after which time there will be an appeals period.

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