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Resource material › Building Sustainable Urban Communities › 5. Bringing it all together - a possible sustainable urban development approach

(Building Sustainable Urban Communities - discussion document)

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Place-based solutions
How the sustainable urban development approach might work

Each sustainable urban development project seems to face a unique set of barriers and difficulties that depend on the parties involved, the objectives for the development and the site-specific circumstances of particular places.

In many urban development projects, single tools or the use of non-regulatory measures will help to address the barriers or difficulties. Complex and/or strategically important projects may need a wider range of powers, tools and support, potentially of a directive or coercive nature, such as those discussed in this document. These types of projects are likely to make up only a small (but important) proportion of all urban development.

Place-based solutions are planning and development approaches based on specific physical locations and their geographical and spatial relation to other areas, which recognise the unique characteristics of each area being considered.

There is growing recognition that place-based initiatives can deliver more effective, integrated development in key locations. For instance, the One Plan for Auckland will use place-based initiatives to implement selected significant projects and programmes.

    Proposals to provide an enabling place-based approach outlined in this part of the document combine:
    • legislation that will allow the declaration of sustainable urban development areas (complex and/or strategically important). This would include a range of new powers and tools for approved organisations to use in these areas as required.
    • new measures to work with legislation to support sustainable urban development projects across New Zealand, regardless of their complexity and/or strategic importance.

    Using this approach, business cases would be prepared for project areas to confirm their complexity or strategic importance. Once a sound business case demonstrated both significant opportunities for sustainable urban development and any likely barriers, existing public organisations would seek approval to use powers or tools that they could show were needed to undertake the project/s.

    Enabling legislation could provide for the confirmation of an existing development organisation, or authorisation to establish a new development organisation for one or more sustainable urban development projects.

    The legislation would also provide the ability to specify:

    • the purpose, establishment provisions, functions, powers, governance and accountability frameworks, and term (including project closure processes) for the organisation and project
    • any dispute resolution process needed if cross-boundary disputes occurred between local authorities or spheres of government.
    • The type of organisational structure that might operate would depend on a combination of factors:
    • the relative level of investment in the project by central and local government
    • whether the main objectives for the development are local, regional or national in nature
    • whether the development depends on specific private or public properties or assets being included.

    A number of types of development organisations provided for in existing legislation could be empowered under this sort of approach. These organisations are likely to be local and/or central government-owned or -controlled companies. They include:
    • organisations already operating in New Zealand(2)
    • local authorities
    • council-controlled organisations (either owned and controlled by one local authority or by a group of local authorities, with or without a shareholding held by government or the private sector)
    • wholly-owned Crown subsidiaries
    • joint ventures with private developers
    • jointly controlled central and local government companies.

    Some governments overseas have established special-purpose urban development authorities to tackle some of these barriers by co-ordinating and facilitating development in specific urban areas. This is not considered necessary in the New Zealand context, given the range of existing types of development organisation available to undertake sustainable urban development.

    Enabling legislation could also provide for the use of the following powers/tools within the specified sustainable urban development areas:

    • land assembly and compulsory land acquisition powers to be used within the area, including appropriate accountability mechanisms
    • funding tools, including a framework for infrastructure and value-uplift levies within the area
    • mechanisms and powers to streamline planning and development control processes, with appropriate levels of public consultation and appeal rights
    • mechanisms to improve utility and service-provider integration at the planning and delivery stages of the development process.

    Specific regulatory tools that could enhance the provision of affordable housing in sustainable urban development areas include:
    • local regulatory tools such as planning or density bonus provisions, pre-approved development rights for developments that provide affordable housing in public transport-oriented, higher-density zones
    • setting targets for affordable housing provision as a condition of approving the use of particular powers or tools in the area
    • value uplift levy funding tools.

    Ideally, the legislation would be supported by:
    • improved application of, and enhancements to, existing regulatory tools (such as designation, development control or plan change processes)
    • local and central government projects to develop a range of non-regulatory and local regulatory tools, and communicate these to local government, utility providers and other key urban development stakeholders. This would include tools such as planning zonings to get transport-oriented, higher-density areas, and ways to use existing consultation or planning mechanisms more effectively.
    • building capacity in sustainability, urban design and urban development in central and local government, and the private sector.

    further improvements to co-ordination and integration in central and local government, including improvements to the way in which central government agencies:

      work with local government and utility operators in planning and service delivery at the metropolitan and local urban scale

      make investment decisions (undertaking comprehensive integrated planning, prioritisation and funding for sustainable urban development)

      collect, analyse and provide information on sustainable urban issues.

    In projects that are not complex and/or strategically important, all these support mechanisms would help overcome barriers and implementation difficulties. However, these measures alone are unlikely to deal with the more pressing opportunities and barriers evident in the complex and strategically important urban development locations that would be targeted by the proposed legislation.
    • What other approaches to sustainable urban development could be used in New Zealand? Please describe them or provide examples and references.

    How the sustainable urban development approach might work

    The following is an outline of the broad process by which a new sustainable urban development approach might work for complex or strategically important projects.

    First, a suitable location for a sustainable urban development project needs to be identified. There may be a number of triggers for a particular location to be put forward for consideration — a regional (or local) strategic planning exercise with community consultation; central government social housing redevelopment priorities; or a combination of factors.

    Determining the suitability of a location for the special approach would involve a detailed study outlining the development opportunities and the likely or known barriers to development. This would also provide opportunities for potential project partners to participate (such as private sector developers, significant landowners, service and infrastructure providers, etc) along with the local community.

    The next important stage is developing a more detailed project plan. This would involve getting the agreement of all project participants — including those in central and local government — to funding, resource allocation, and the main decisions that will be required. It would outline the broad vision for the area, and it would involve preparing a business case demonstrating the viability of the project. The business case must show why special urban development powers and tools are needed to realise the vision.

    A Minister would consider the business case and, supported by appropriate advice, decide whether to declare the location a sustainable urban development project. This decision would outline the boundaries of the project area, the objectives of the project, the powers and tools available, and the nature of the development organisation that would undertake the project on behalf of the project partners.

    It is likely at this stage, and while the development organisation gets up and running, that interim planning controls would be placed on the area to prevent any development inconsistent with the overall vision. The development organisation would then:

    • prepare the detailed master development plan for consultation
    • determine the final development and planning controls
    • arrange formal changes to the district plan
    • begin entering into development agreements, contracting work, buying, preparing, and selling land for development
    • consider what social and economic programmes would be needed to support the existing and future communities.

    The project may take 15 to 20 years to complete. At the end of this, the area would be returned to the normal jurisdiction of the local authority during a transition period, and the development organisation would be disestablished (or move on to another approved project).

    • What do you think about this place-based approach to sustainable urban development?
    • What organisations should be allowed to use any new tools and powers?
    • If an area is declared a sustainable urban development project, what tools should be available to:
      • co-ordinate planning and investment?
      • fund development?
      • assemble land?
      • simplify or streamline planning processes and/or consenting requirements?
      • encourage the supply of a range of housing choices, including the provision of affordable housing?

    • Do you have any other comments on the options and ideas within this discussion document?


    2. New Zealand companies already set up to co-ordinate and enable urban development include Crown subsidiaries such as the Hobsonville Land Company, and existing council-controlled organisations such as Tomorrow’s Manukau Properties Ltd and Waitakere Properties Ltd

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