Auckland Unitary Plan recommendations process

Litigation Update


Hearings into submissions on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (Unitary Plan) have concluded and the Independent Hearings Panel (Panel) has worked on recommendations for changes it considers should be made to the proposed plan. The Panel released its recommendations to Auckland Council (Council) by 22 July 2016 and these will be publicly available from 27 July.

Next steps in process 

The information which the Panel has provided to Council is: 

  • An overview report summarising any significant recommended policy shifts
  • Reports, by topic, providing recommendations and the reasons for them
  • A 'clean' copy of the Unitary Plan and maps. 
Following receipt of the recommendations, the Council will have 20 working days to consider and publicly notify its decisions. The decisions will be made in public meetings between 12 and 18 August and publicly notified on 19 August on the Council's website. These meetings will be available for viewing on the Council's live streaming service

The Council is able to accept or reject the Panel's recommendations. If it rejects a recommendation, it is required to provide an alternative solution from within the scope of public submissions made on the Unitary Plan, together with a cost benefit analysis. Given the short time available, the Council intends focusing on 'big picture' issues and key topics that will have a significant impact on its ability to deliver on the strategic priorities in the Unitary Plan. These include topics such as the Regional Policy Statement, infrastructure, the location of the Rural Urban boundary and zoning. 

Limited appeal rights 

Because of the streamlined plan development process, submitters have limited rights of appeal from the Council's decisions. Where the Council accepts the Panel's recommendations, appeals can only be made to the High Court on points of law. Submitters also have rights of appeal to the Environment Court, where the Council: 

  • Rejects a Panel recommendation and proposes an alternative solution, or 
  • Accepts a Panel recommendation which involves changes to the plan outside the scope of public submissions. A submitter must show they were unduly prejudiced by the Council's decision in order to appeal. 
Appeals have to be filed within 20 working days of notification of the Council's decision (ie by 16 September 2016). Given the short timeframe involved, submitters will have to be proactive and ready to review the decisions as soon as possible. Release of a 'clean' copy of the Unitary Plan may also make it difficult to determine how the plan has changed from the notification version. 

When will the Unitary Plan become operative? 

There is no set date by which the new Unitary Plan becomes operative. Some sections of the plan are likely to have legal effect once the appeal period closes, if no appeals have been filed in respect of those provisions. 

If you have any questions, or require further information regarding any aspect of this update, please contact us.