Regional Policy Statement Change 1 FAQs
Regional councils are required to prepare a regional policy statement (often referred to as an RPS) under the Resource Management Act (RMA). The RPS provides an overview of the resource management issues of the region, and policies and methods to achieve integrated management of the natural and physical resources. The RPS is the legislative instrument that must integrate national direction in the regional context and give integrated direction to the regional and district plans.
- It's a statutory policy document that provides an overview of the region's significant resource management issues.
- It must be given effect to by the region's city and district councils when developing their district plans. For us this is Wellington City Council, Lower Hutt City Council, Upper Hutt City Council, Porirua City Council, Kāpiti Coast District Council, South Wairarapa District Council, Carterton District Council and Masterton District Council.
- It sets out policies and methods for managing the region's significant resource management issues.
- It highlights regionally significant issues with our land, air, fresh and coastal water, infrastructure, and biodiversity and priority issues for mana whenua.
- It sets out what needs to be achieved (objectives) and how it will be achieved (policies and methods).
- It does not contain rules; instead, it sets out how regional, city and district councils need to manage these resources.
- It gives effect to national policy statements and planning standards.
The Regional Policy Statement has the highest ‘rank’ of any resource management planning document in a region. For Greater Wellington, that means that all district plans of Greater Wellington region councils as well as Greater Wellington’s regional plans must follow the provisions laid out in the RPS. This is to ensure that all the councils in the region are working towards common goals.
- The National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) is driving the timeline for this plan change as it requires changes to the RPS and District Plans by August 2022.
- Further changes to the Natural Resources Plan (our Regional Plan) will take place in 2023.
- While the timeframes set are specific to the NPS-UD – it’s important that several topics are addressed at the same time. Without considering these issues together, urban development and intensification may occur in inappropriate places or ways, e.g., in coastal areas impacted by sea level rise, with unacceptable effects on water quality and indigenous biodiversity, or without achieving Te Mana o Te Wai (direction from the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management).
- There is a further deadline driven by the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management meaning that further changes will be required prior to the end of 2024.
A plan change is a formal process under the Resource Management Act 1991 to change one or more provisions of the Regional Policy Statement.
Any person or organisation that may be affected can make a submission on any of the proposed changes to the Regional Policy Statement, either online or in written form.
If a person or organisation could gain an advantage in trade competition through a submission, then they may only make a submission if an effect of the Change adversely affects the environment and does not relate to trade competition or the effects of trade competition.
A second round of submissions, known as ‘further submissions’, is also required, however the scope of who may make a further submission is limited to someone representing a relevant aspect of the public interest, someone that has an interest greater than the general public, or the local authority itself. Further submissions may only be made in support or opposition of submissions made in the first round.
The key drivers to update, implement and align within the RPS are:
- Government direction: NPS-Freshwater Management (2020) & NPS-Urban Development (2020)
- Te Mana o te Taiao – Aotearoa New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy 2020
- Climate change – response to the most significant resource management issue
- Aspects of the Wellington Regional Growth Framework
- Whaitua recommendations (our catchment work with mana whenua and communities).
There are four significant and urgent resource management issues for the region that are being addressed through this change:
- the impacts of climate change
- loss and degradation of indigenous biodiversity
- degradation of freshwater
- lack of urban development capacity.
We also know there is a lack of Te Ao Māori and Mātauranga Māori in decision-making, governance and implementation. We will address this where we can in this RPS Change but acknowledge that solving this overarching issue is a long-term goal.
In February 2021 the government confirmed it would repeal and replace the Resource Management Act (RMA) which has been in place for the past 30 years. The government’s announcement confirmed that the RMA would be replaced by three new acts:
- Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA), to protect and restore the environment while better enabling development, as the primary replacement for the RMA
- Strategic Planning Act (SPA), to help coordinate and integrate decisions made under relevant legislation, through requiring the development of long-term regional spatial strategies; and
- Climate Adaptation Act (CAA), to address complex issues associated with managed retreat.
The need to maintain momentum in delivering resource management outcomes across the Regional Policy Statement Change is just as important now as it ever has been as we continue to experience high levels of growth and pressure is put on our natural and built environments. There will be a transition period to the new system (maybe up to 10 years) meaning that it is important to continue with the changes to ensure compliance with current national direction.
Implementing national direction through Regional Policy Statement changes is a complex process. While we plan to carry this work out through until the end of 2024, we are ready to adapt to government changes and resource management reform along the way. For that reason, our long-term project timing will likely alter alongside the expected legislation changes.
The Wellington Regional Growth Framework is a spatial plan that describes a long-term vision for how the region will grow, change and respond to key urban development challenges and opportunities in a way that gets the best outcomes and maximises the benefits across the region. The Framework includes Masterton, Carterton, South Wairarapa, Upper Hutt, Lower Hutt, Wellington, Porirua, Kāpiti Coast and Horowhenua.
The Regional Policy Statement Change will give regulatory weight to the Wellington Regional Growth Framework to ensure that urban development is happening in the right places in the right way. In this way the Regional Policy Statement assists in addressing population growth across the region.
The Regional Policy Statement Change introduces a new chapter on climate change which sets out a range of objectives and policies designed to contribute to meeting binding climate change targets. One area of focus to meet these targets are through reducing transport emissions.
Key climate change outcomes of the proposed change would include a commitment by Greater Wellington to halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, which would enable the region to reach carbon net-zero by 2050. Other targets would result in a 35 per cent reduction in emissions from land transport as well as a 60 per cent reduction from public transport and a 40 per cent increase in cycling, walking and public transport use by 2030.
The mode shift requirements set by the Regional Policy Statement Change would flow through to district and regional plans through consenting requirements. This means that district and regional plans would require the development of travel demand management plans which minimise private vehicle use in favour of public transport. People will still have a choice in their preferred mode of transport, but they would also be more able to make alternative choices such as sustainable transport or public transport, meaning that urban spaces are designed to not solely rely on private vehicles for their transport needs.
The approach that is presented in the Regional Policy Statement Change is a step change for how mana whenua / tangata whenua have been provided for in regards to their ancestral land in the past. It includes enabling and empowering our mana whenua / tangata whenua partners to exercise tino rangatiratanga and making sure that tino rangatiratanga is provided for in all district plans and regional plans in our region. This will enable the development of Māori land in the way that they want it to be done.
No, the Regional Policy Statement Change directs that any future development must enable alternative transport modes and not be solely reliant on private vehicles. It does not ban cars. Where people need to use vehicles, they still may use vehicles, but all future developments should enable people to choose what form of transport they prefer from a range of practical options including public transport, sustainable transport, and private vehicles. In this way people have more choice over their mode of transport and therefore their own transport emissions.
The National Policy Statement on Urban Development directs regional councils to develop towns and cities that are well-functioning urban environments that meet the changing needs of diverse communities. It removes overly restrictive barriers to development to allow growth ‘up’ and ‘out’ in locations that have good access to existing services, public transport networks and infrastructure.
To support productive and well-functioning cities, it is important that there are adequate opportunities for land to be developed to meet several needs including providing for people and communities social, economic, and cultural wellbeing, and for their health and safety, now and into the future.
The intent of the RPS is to ensure that urban development is integrated with other policies, such as public transport and district plans. This is to make sure that development capacity and infrastructure is ready before development occurs. This doesn’t mean that greenfield developments cannot happen.
Before getting consented, the developer would need to show (through Travel Demand Management Plans) what measures and infrastructure the development will have to reduce peoples’ reliance on private cars. This could be by designing the streets so they can accommodate busses; build multi modal infrastructure that connects the development to public transport; provide amenities e.g. supermarkets, shared workspaces, safe bike storage etc.
Local councils in the region will need to align their district plans with the new Regional Policy Statement. Greater Wellington Regional Council will also need to align its own Regional Plan (known as the Natural Resources Plan) with the RPS.
Regional Policy Statements don’t have rules, however Regional Policy Statements provide direction to District Plans which will eventually lead to rules. The City and district councils are required to have regard to Proposed RPS Change 1, including when they provide for intensification in their District Plans. They are also still required to give effect to the operative Regional Policy Statement.
Greenhouse gas emissions across the world need to reduce significantly and rapidly to limit global warming to 1.5°C, the threshold to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
The RPS includes an aspirational objective that seeks reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from transport, agriculture, energy, waste and industry in the Wellington Region to contribute towards achieving this limit:
- by 2030 to contribute to a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2019 levels, and to work towards net zero emissions by 2050.
This is a science-based, all-gasses, target that is aligned with the Paris Agreement. The framing of the objective “to contribute to” recognises that local government holds only some of the levers required to drive emissions reductions.
The RPS targets are not the same as those in the national Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Act, which takes a split gas approach to domestic emissions targets (that is, it has different targets for CO2 and methane) and is not aligned with what is sufficient to meet the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5℃.
There are a range of policies and methods to help achieve this objective, but the RPS does not ‘apportion’ the responsibility for GHG emission reduction to individual districts or sectors.
Submissions on the climate change provisions will be considered through hearings, using the standard RMA schedule 1 process and not the fast-track Freshwater Planning Process.
The RPS provisions work to support the concept of “the right tree in the right place”, including reducing unconstrained planting of exotic trees on inappropriate land. Their intent is to incentivise planting and regeneration of permanent and indigenous trees on highly erodible land, particularly in catchments that have issues with a large amount of sediment ending up in waterbodies. Increasing indigenous permanent forestry cover in these areas will have multiple benefits, for improving water quality, increasing biodiversity, and providing more forested areas that absorb carbon dioxide.
Greater Wellington is aware of concerns that large areas of land could become carbon sinks. This not the intent of the policy changes.
If you have any concerns about the policies, or any other unintended consequences, please provide feedback identifying the relevant policies.
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