MBIE Releases NPS-UDC Guidance and Model Toolkit: NZPI Suggests Additions for Better Planning and Compliance

01 June 2017

New Zealand’s first National Policy Statement on Urban Development (Capacity) came into effect 1 December 2016. Responsibility for implementation is split between Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and Ministry for Environment (MfE).

NZPI is concerned that the guidance resources prepared by MBIE focus too narrowly on economic outcomes and measures while the first objective of the NPS is Effective and efficient urban environments that enable people and communities and future generations to provide for their social, economic, cultural and environmental wellbeing.

The NPS places new obligations on local authorities to ensure that planning decisions are based on better information, and land supply for residential and business use can meet future demand.

Key themes of the NPS include:

  • Enabling development “upwards” by intensifying existing urban areas, and “outwards” by releasing land in greenfield areas.

  • Ensuring that development capacity is not only provided for in plans but is also supported by infrastructure. The NPS requires development capacity to be serviced with development infrastructure, with different levels of certainty for infrastructure provision in the short, medium and long-term.

  • Ensuring that planning occurs with a better understanding of land and development markets, and the impact that planning has on these. Local authorities will be required to prepare a housing and business development capacity assessment and regularly monitor market indicators to ensure there is sufficient development capacity to meet demand.

MBIE has developed written guidance covering:

  • How to prepare a housing and business development capacity assessment,

  • Monitoring market indicators.

And two computer based resources:

  • A development feasibility tool,

  • Online market indicators dashboard.

These resources are available now at this link. (A test version of the dashboard is available at this link) While NZPI commends MBIE’s engagement with high growth council officials and developers, and welcomes the guidance materials that are now available, we have additional guidance suggestions which will enable more effective integration with good urban planning processes and which we consider will deliver better urban outcomes consistent with NPS objectives.

Preliminary NZPI issues and suggestions include:

  • Despite the objectives of the NPS including social, economic, cultural and environmental wellbeing (which are the objectives of good urban planning), MBIE guidance for the NPS is restricted to economic matters. Council planning staff need to be aware of this.

  • Despite NPS policy requiring Councils to monitor urban development outcomes, MBIE guidance is restricted to market indicators, and price efficiency indicators, with a mention of visitor numbers and empty dwelling numbers – but there is no mention of indicators relating to social, environmental or cultural wellbeing (such as numbers of local jobs/resident; amount of green space; public transport availability). Measureable urban indicators would specify the delivery of minimum public good outcomes. These could be drawn from ISO 37120:2014 (Sustainable development of communities – Indicators for city services and quality of life)

  • The MBIE Development Feasibility Model examines the economics of various options for land development from a developer perspective, and outputs margin and profit on investment and suchlike. However the financial implications of various Council options for investing in infrastructure are ignored – though it appears the data is available. Any assessment of development feasibility requires an appreciation of the public economics of development alongside the private economics. The MBIE model can be readily enhanced to provide that functionality.

NZPI anticipates that urban planning work places will have capacity problems finding staff able to do the analytical work needed to comply with the NPS. NZPI already has an updated CPD course on the economics of urban development. However we recognise the NPS triggers a technical competency gap that will need to be addressed with urgency, and have raised this issue with both Ministries. Both will need to resource and provide for capacity building within the planning profession.