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A Guide to Plan Changes
A guide to understanding plan changes in the Queenstown Lakes District
About plan changes
A plan change is a change to the District Plan that amends the provisions or planning maps. The District Plan is the document that details which developments and activities you can and cannot undertake, as of right, in different locations in the district. All District and City Councils in Aotearoa New Zealand are required to have a district plan prepared under the Resource Management Act.
To ensure that the District Plan is up-to-date and consistent with other Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) policies and plans and legislative requirements, QLDC may initiate a plan change.
Council and the community have invested a good deal of time and resources into the preparation of the current District Plan. The District Plan has the force of a legal regulation and changes can only be made with the formal approval of Council, involving careful consideration of alternatives, public consultation, formal submissions, and if necessary, a hearing with the opportunity to test decisions in the Environment Court.
The plan change process described in this guide is set by Schedule 1 of the Resource Management Act and is undertaken by QLDC. The Environment Court appeals step is run by the Environment Court.
What's the difference between a plan change and a variation
A variation follows the same process as a plan change, it will still be notified, and you can still make submissions.
However, a variation is made to a proposed District Plan, which is a district plan that is not operative (meaning that there are outstanding decisions or appeals). Only Council can make a variation, individuals cannot.
The plan change process
People will have at least 20 working days to make a submission. After all the submissions are received, they are read and summarised by Council planners. Each submission is given its own submission number. Then, a report is put together of all the summaries, called the ‘summary of decisions requested’.
A public notice notifying the plan change is published in the Mountain Scene and Wānaka Sun, and on QLDC’s website.Close
The summary of decisions requested report is then publicly notified. This allows people to read what submitters have said, and further submit on submissions of interest to them. People have ten working days to lodge their further submission with Council, and must also send a copy, normally via email, to the original submitter.
Then, all the submissions and further submissions are collated and reviewed and a report is prepared that makes recommendations to the Hearings Panel on whether or not the submissions should be accepted. This report is called the 42a Report.
It is important to note that only people who have submitted on the plan change when it was first notified, people who have an interest greater than the public generally, or those representing a relevant aspect of the public interest can make a further submission, as well as Council.
The summary of decisions requested is notified in the Mountain Scene and Wānaka Sun, and on QLDC’s website.Close
The hearing enables submitters to present their views to a Hearings Panel appointed by the Council. The Hearings Panel is usually comprised of three qualified RMA Commissioners and usually includes at least one sitting Councillor. This is the opportunity to speak to your submission. Hearings are public and anyone may attend to listen, however only submitters or further submitters and/or their agents (often lawyers and planners) may speak. Once the hearing has concluded, the Hearings Panel writes up its findings in a Recommendations Report, which is subsequently taken to Council to make decisions on the plan change.
If you stated in your submission that you wished to be heard, you will be sent the date of the hearing and the officer’s report, and Council officers will be in touch with you to organise your speaking slot.Close
The Hearings Panel’s Recommendations Report is considered by Councilors, who then make a formal decision on the plan change.
Public notice of the decision is published in the Mountain Scene and Wānaka Sun, and on QLDC’s website.Close
Once Council’s decision is released, any person who submitted on the plan change has 30 working days to appeal the decision to the Environment Court.
If an appeal is lodged by someone else and you’re interested in the process, you can still be involved by becoming a party to the proceedings (Section 274 parties). To do so, you’ll need to file with the Environment Court within 15 working days after the period for lodging a notice of appeal ends.
To become a s274 party, you need to have been a submitter, or have an interest greater than the public generally. Also, you can’t engage in trade competition through your involvement in the appeal.
From this point, the Environment Court is in charge of the process and decisions, and everyone (respondents, appellants and s274 parties) will be included in any mediations and hearings, all of which are run by the Environment Court.
Once you appeal, or become party to an appeal, the issue cannot be resolved by mediation or negotiations without your involvement.Close
The submission process
Any person may make a submission on the whole or any part of a notified plan change, either in support or opposition. The submission must be in the form required by the RMA (called Form 5), which can be found on Council’s website and offices in Queenstown and Wānaka.
Submissions can be made:
on QLDC’s website
via post to the address in the public notice
via email to: email@example.com
If your submission does not meet the requirements of Form 5 or is not received by the due date, it may not be taken into account when Council makes its decision.
All submissions must include the following information
Name and contact details of the submitter;
The name of the plan change you are submitting on (sometimes Council notifies more than one plan change at a time so it is important you are clear about which one you are submitting on);
Your submission - whether you support or oppose the specific provisions and would like to have them amended, and the reasons for your opinions;
What decision you would like from Council;
Whether you would like to speak in support of your submission at a Council hearing;
If you would be happy to present a joint case with someone making a similar submission.
Tips for making a good submission
Be clear and base your submission on facts
Focus on the positive or negative effects of the plan change
Stick to the issues. Council can only consider points of submission that are relevant to the plan change
If you decide to speak at the hearing, you are only able to speak on matters you have identified in your submission
Be specific and try to use concrete examples where you can
Where appropriate, include maps, diagrams, and professional opinions that support your submission
Tell Council what you want – don’t leave it to guess work
Write in clear, simple everyday language.
Each original submission received will be allocated a submission number and the decisions requested by each submission will be summarised. The summary will be publicly notified for ten working days and copies of the summary and the original submissions will be available at Council’s offices, public libraries, and website.
You can read what other people have said about the proposed plan change and decide whether you agree or disagree with their suggestions. However, you can only make a further submission if you have previously submitted on the plan change, represent a relevant part of the public interest, or have an interest greater than the public generally.
A further submission can only be in support or opposition to all or part of an original submission. It cannot raise matters that were not raised in the original submission. Within five (5) days of making a further submission you need to send a copy of this to the person(s) who made the original submission(s) that you are now submitting on.
You must include the following information in your further submission
Your name and contact details
The details of the submission you are making a further submission on
Whether you support or oppose the primary submission
The particular parts of the submission that you support or oppose
The reasons for your support of, or opposition to the original submission
What decision you seek from Council.
Once all submissions and further submissions have been received the planner collates them into one report. The planner will group the submission points into similar topics and make recommendations to the Hearings Panel on the submissions. The planner need not address each submission point separately, and will base their recommendations on the requirements of the Resource Management Act, the Section 32 analysis, and their knowledge of the subject. The planner’s report is sent to all submitters at least ten working days before the hearing is to be held.Close
If you indicated in your submission you would like to be heard in support of your submission, you will be sent a notice of hearing letter. This will tell you the date, time, and location of the hearing. It will include a protocol for the running of the hearing and how the hearing process works. Council staff will also be in touch to confirm a time for your speaking slot.
The hearing will be organised by QLDC and will be led by the Chair of the Hearings Panel. Each submitter seeking to be heard is given a timeslot to speak about their submission, and then the panel often asks questions. The questions are for points of clarification to understand your perspective (they do not cross- examine). You do not need to be represented by a lawyer or planner unless you wish.
Try to be concise and to the point when speaking to your submissions.Close
You can read out your concerns if you find this easier, and you are encouraged to provide a copy of your verbal submission in advance of the hearing. This assists the panel in understanding your perspective and forming their decision. You may use diagrams or photos to illustrate your point if this helps explain your submission. You may have experts in fields relevant to your submission speak to support your submission if you wish, but it is not necessary.
As soon as possible after the hearing of submissions, the Hearings Panel Recommendations Report is written. The report is then put before Councillors to make a decision on the plan change. Council’s decision can only amend the plan change if the amendment has been sought in some way by a submitter in a submission. This step can often take a few months from the close of the hearing due to the time needed to write up the Recommendations Report and to put the report on the next Council meeting agenda.
Council’s decision will be sent to all submitters on the plan change. A public notice will be put in the local newspapers and on Council’s website advertising the availability of the decision, and the reports will be available at Council’s offices, public libraries, and website.Close
Frequently Asked Questions
This process is different from a resource consent in that you may not be individually notified and asked to sign your acceptance of a development. QLDC will notify all people it sees as affected parties, this may be by notices sent out with rates, mail outs or public notices. It is up to you to keep an eye out and take part in the process.Close
A private plan change is when an individual formally requests a plan change. Anyone can request a private plan change to operative parts of the District Plan. However, in the two-year period from the date the Plan became operative Council can reject the request. A private plan change request is submitted to Council along with a Section 32 analysis, an assessment of environmental effects and details of any consultation undertaken or proposed. The exact form of the request is outlined in Clause 22 of Part 2 of Schedule 1 of the Resource Management Act 1991.
A private plan change must be paid for by the person initiating it, including all Council’s costs up to the point that Council makes a decision. Talk to Council or a planner if you are considering this option.
If a private plan change is adopted by Council as if it were its own, the same process of public notification applies as for a Council-initiated change. When Council receives a private plan request change it has three options:
1. Reject the plan change
Council may reject a request for various reasons, including:
if there is inadequate information
if the plan change does not represent good resource management, and
if the District Plan has not been operative for more than two years, or the provisions covered by the plan change have been considered by Council or the court within the last two years.
2. Accept the plan change
Council agrees that the required information has been provided and can process the information. It does not necessarily mean that Council supports the content of the private plan change.
3. Adopt the plan change
If Council agrees with the content and changes proposed by the plan change, they may adopt it as a Council plan change. The process is then the same as if Council had prepared the plan change.Close
How can I stay informed?
Any plan change to the District Plan must be publicly notified. This means that a public notice is put in the newspapers (Mountain Scene and Wānaka Sun) giving details on the changes are being made to the District Plan.
A copy of the public notice, the Section 32 analysis, the proposed provisions, notices of meetings and calls for comments are all published on QLDC’s website at www.qldc.govt.nz.
QLDC also has an email database of all people who wish to receive emails when significant steps in the plan change process are undertaken. Call the District Plan Administrator if you would like to be added to this list.