National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity: Will it fill the void?

In 2017, the Government released the National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity (NPS).

The NPS is a statutory policy document, produced and administered under the Resource Management Act (RMA). It sets out a suite of objectives and policies that guide Councils and local authorities in facilitating urban development.

The overarching objective of the NPS is to ensure that Councils provide sufficient development capacity to meet demand. Under the NPS, Councils will need to actively consider a range of demand factors that drive urban development. This includes house and business typology, size, location, as well as providing for supporting infrastructure. No longer is it sufficient to simply identify and zone land.

And in light of the 2014 Supreme Court decision in New Zealand King Salmon, it is clear that a greater level of sub-RMA policy direction is necessary. New Zealand's planning system is particularly complex, underpinned by the broad principle of sustainable management of natural and physical resources. The broad purpose provisions of the RMA have brought about decades of complex and often uncertain decisions. The King Salmon case highlighted the need for a greater level of certainty and national direction in our planning law.

The NPS aims to provide that certainty and direction in the urban development context. But the question is, how effective will this NPS be in ensuring we produce efficient, and effective urban development outcomes. The balance between economics and the environment is an inescapable tension that still exists under the RMA. It remains to be seen as to whether this NPS will provide the necessary guidance in achieving that balance, while also facilitating much needed urban development.

Despite the questions marks, the NPS is a necessary starting point in providing a greater level of certainty to an otherwise complex planning system.