Urban Development Authorities – a fresh approach to urban development

The Government is proposing new legislation to introduce Urban Development Authorities (UDAs).  
The proposal focuses around urban development projects – these are not limited to residential and can be in greenfield or brownfield areas.  

Under the proposal, a framework is provided to enable an urban development project and a UDA to be established.  The UDA must be majority publicly controlled and will be given powers necessary to achieve the strategic objectives of the given urban development project.  Once established, the UDA prepares a ‘development plan’.

A UDA could be a regulator only and may partner with private entities who would be responsible for leading the development project and delivering the strategic objectives of the project.

The powers available to a UDA are wide-ranging and include access to compulsory acquisition under the Public Works Act 1981, and land assembly powers to enable subdivision or land consolidation, or to reclassify, revoke, or reconfigure reserves (but not Maori, scientific or nature reserves).  Planning and consenting powers could also be given to the UDA which will then be the consenting authority for any resource consents (called development consents) necessary to complete the project.  A UDA can also be given powers to create, move, alter, extend, or build infrastructure, and fund it through targeted infrastructure charges or development contributions.  The powers given to the UDA will only endure for the life of the development project.

As with recent amendments to the RMA and processes under the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act 2013 (HASHA) processes under the proposal are ‘streamlined’.  There are no merits appeals in relation to the establishment of the urban development project and the UDA or the approval of the development plan.  There are also specific notification processes for activities included or not included in the development plan – with a requirement that the decision maker must consider submissions but not hold public hearings in either case.  The decision making considerations for planning and consenting within the project area are also ‘re-prioritised’ in much the same way as HASHA with the most weighty consideration being the strategic objectives of the development project followed by Part 2 of the RMA and then remaining RMA considerations.

The proposal will no doubt receive mixed reviews – welcomed by eligible public entities and the private sector willing to partner with public entities, who wish to fast track urban development, but criticised by those who see the streamlined processes as a further erosion of public participation in planning and consenting processes.

What is clear is that the proposal will, like HASHA, re-frame the approach to planning and consenting within an urban development project area.  If successful, one can expect to see various urban development projects and UDAs in New Zealand’s growing urban areas, with the dominant consideration for development in the project area being the strategic objectives of the project. 

Intended to complement the National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity and the Housing Infrastructure Fund, the discussion document was released by MBIE on 14 February 2017 and the period for submissions closes on 19 May 2017.