District Plan Review Project - Frequently Asked Questions
What is the District Plan and why do we have one?
The District Plan controls the way land is used, developed and subdivided in the Thames-Coromandel District. It helps determine where activities can take place in the District, under what restrictions and what natural and cultural features should be protected.
Under the Resource Management Act 1991 every district council in New Zealand is required to have a district plan. District plans are important planning documents identifying the key resource management issues in the District, what the community wants to be done about the issues and ways to achieve the outcome we want.
How does the District Plan affect me?
The District Plan identifies a wide range of activities anticipated in the District, where they are expected to occur and under what restrictions. It affects the way you and your neighbours can use and develop your property. For many people the rules in the District Plan go unnoticed and it is often not until people want to start a new activity or redevelop their property that they become aware of the District Plan and its requirements.
Why is the District Plan being reviewed?
The Plan has to be up to date with what's happening in the District and to incorporate all changes to legislation, national and regional policies. We are legally required to review the District Plan every 10 years.
What's changed in the Proposed District Plan?
As part of the review process we have tried to make the Proposed Plan more user-friendly and easier to use. We have also tried to 'cut red tape' and streamline processes. Where things were working well we haven't made any changes and it is business as usual. Where things weren't working well we have made changes to enable economic development, remove unnecessary restrictions and streamline processes.
Some of the key changes are set out below.
Coastal Environment & Landscapes
- We've identified the District's outstanding landscapes in overlays on the Planning Maps. The extent of the overlays is restricted to the identified feature, not the property boundary.
- Rather than a separate zone, the extra standards and policies that relate to development in the coastal environment are integrated within existing zones and overlays.
- We have a Beach Amenity Overlay over our coastal towns and settlements. The purpose of the overlay has been clarified and focuses on maintaining view shafts between the beach and the settlement. We're suggesting an additional restriction limiting high density development in this overlay.
Commercial & Industrial Areas
- Most consents and design criteria for commercial zones are limited to the core pedestrian areas where they are important to keep town centres vibrant.
- To cut red tape and keep our Commercial Areas viable we're suggesting a wide range of commercial and community activities be permitted.
- In the Industrial Zones we're suggesting industrial activities generally be a permitted activity provided the zone standards are met.
- The Proposed Plan allows you to live above your workshop in the Light Industrial Zone.
Contaminated Land & Mining
- We've identified quarrying as a valuable source of aggregate for roads and local industry. Quarrying standards have been established which allow for reasonable expansion of these community assets.
- In response to concerns about mining we've broken mining down into its various parts and are suggesting mining activities be assessed depending upon their effects.
- The activity status of underground mining depends on the zone and the sensitivity of the area.
- Prospecting and exploration to source minerals is expected in our District and is either a Permitted or Controlled activity i.e. will be guaranteed consent, subject to conditions.
Historic Heritage & Significant Trees
- Activities permitted in the zone that the heritage overlay sits above, can still be done, but care will be required to ensure that they don't detract from the historic quality of the area.
- We've reviewed the Significant Tree Register and it only includes trees which enhance the quality of the environment.
- Twenty-five confirmed archaeological sites and areas of significance to Maori are now included in a schedule. This acknowledges these sites are important to the history of the District.
Residential & Recreational Areas
- The Conservation Zone now only applies to DoC land. This enables DoC to manage its estate under its own Conservation Management Strategy, without needing resource consents for most things.
- The Recreation Zoning only applies to Council owned or managed reserves, not to any private land. This approach enables Council to rely on its reserve management plans without needing resource consents for most activities in these zones.
Rural Areas & Biodiversity
- Industry supporting farming and forestry can occur where the function of the zone is not compromised. Aquaculture storage and maintenance are provided for.
- The standards for intensive farming are simplified to encourage new and innovative farming.
- The management of biodiversity in our District has been reviewed. In particular there are new, more detailed requirements allowing for some reasonable use where effects on biodiversity are minor, but need an assesment through resource consent for other vegetation removal. Where the site is a significant biodiversity area, we'd want the biodiversity values to be preserved.
Development & Growth
- The Kopu-Thames Structure Plan has been included with Stage 1 rezoned for development.
- In Whitianga the industrial area has been expanded.
- More land has been zoned for residential use In Coromandel Town and Whitianga.
Subdivision & Natural Hazards
- Rural subdivision design principles have been included to help applicants preparing applications and guide decision making on large rural subdivisions.
- In response to case law we're suggesting most types of subdivision are restricted discretionary activity with specific matters identified for assessment.
- To avoid duplication we've moved the engineering standards for transport and utilities into the Council's Engineering Code of Practice for Subdivision and Development.
- Some subdivision standards have been standardised and rationalised.
- The Proposed Plan includes enabling provisions across all Maori land, no matter where it is. We think this will be very useful after the Hauraki Treaty of Waitangi settlement when a lot of land may become Maori land. It also lets Maori develop their land using the zone rules in the same way that non-Maori can.
- Maori land rules are for land classified by the Maori Land Court, because this presumes land remains with the tribe. Whereas general land can be bought, developed and sold by both Maori and non-Maori.
Transport & Utilities
- An updated schedule of designations for public works and utilities is now shown on the planning maps.
- The high voltage electricity transmission lines and adjoining buffer areas are shown on the planning maps.
- A new Road Zone for our formed roads enables the day-to-day management and operation of roads to occur with limited restrictions. All activities in this zone will require approval from Council's Roading Manager.
- A new Airfield Zone with revised height and noise restrictions makes provision for future airfield use.
- The inclusion of rules providing for renewable energy sources and solar panels is in many zones.
- The car-parking rules are revised and reduced for some activities, such as comprehensive developments and visitor accommodation.
How do I check to see if the zone of my property has changed or if any special value overlays apply?
The Proposed District Plan Planning Maps show the proposed zoning of all properties in the District. These maps are available online for viewing.
Alternatively, call customer services on (07) 868 0200 and we can help you find the changes.
Where are the SNAs in the Proposed District Plan?
After consultation with the community and further review, Council staff recommended not to include Waikato Regional Council's indicative significant indigenous biodiversity areas (then known as SNAs) into the District Plan. The maps were not accurate enough at a property level, and most had not been ground-truthed to determine their significance. In the Proposed Plan, a biodiversity check may be needed if indigenous vegetation clearance is major enough to trigger a resource consent. If that happens, the SNA information may be useful to you and the Council as a starting point to consider any effects on biodiversity.
What is the natural character overlay?
Natural character means the degree of 'naturalness' in the environment, how much natural processes are in control how much human influence in the environment can be perceived. The Resource Management Act requires us to preserve the natural character of two areas in particular: the coastal environment, and on the margins of lakes, rivers and wetlands. This is also one of the important characteristics that makes the Coromandel special and attractive to people living, working and visiting here.
What is an overlay?
Overlays are a method used in the Plan to identify the special values of the District that are important to the Council and the community, including the matters of national importance set out in the RMA.
Overlays sit over and above other rules in the Plan (except for the special purpose provisions). They provide rules in addition to the zone and district-wide rules where special values have been identified for a particular site or location.
The overlays in the Plan are:
- Airfield Height and Noise
- Coastal Environment
- The Electricity Transmission Line Buffer
- Historic Heritage including archaeology, sites of significance to Māori, heritage items and heritage areas
- Outstanding Natural Features and Landscapes
- Natural Character
- Maori Land
- Natural Hazards including floods, coastal erosion, tsunami and flood defences
- Significant Trees
Each overlay is slightly different; most are specific and mapped. Biodiversity, Māori Land, Tsunami and Flood Defences overlays are not mapped but the rules clarify where they apply.
What is the Coastal Environment?
The 2010 New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement (NZCPS) requires the Council to define the extent of the Coastal Environment in the District Plan and recognises that its extent will vary from place to place.
The requirement to map the coastal environment is new. In the Proposed Plan the Coastal Environment is the area where the coast is a significant part or element. This varies from place to place around the District. In many places, the Coastal Environment is considered to be the land between the coast and the first ridgeline inland.
The Coastal Environment is generally used as a trigger for policies or standards to apply. Applications for discretionary and non-complying resource consents within the area need to consider the effect, if any, of the activity on the coastal environment. All new buildings in the Rural Zone that are also in the Coastal Environment must meet certain reflectivity and colour standards. To find out more about the Coastal Environment take a look at Section 7 in the Proposed District Plan.
Can I run a business from home?
Yes. The Plan provides for home businesses to enable people to work from their home, with the assistance of up to 2 people who do not live there (subject to some other standards). A home business may be a craft, profession or service but it does not include the sale of goods, other than those incidental to the home business (e.g. a hairdresser may sell hair products). Take a look at the zone rules to find out more about home business rules.
What is visitor accommodation?
In the Plan visitor accommodation is the new term used for accommodation that is provided within a building where people pay to stay for a short term. This brings home stays, farm stays, holiday home rentals and commercial operators under the same umbrella.
In most locations visitor accommodation is a permitted activity subject to meeting certain standards. In Residential and Rural Areas it must be within an existing residential building to be a permitted activity (dwelling, minor unit or accessory building). Take a look at the zone rules in the Proposed Plan to find out more about visitor accommodation.
What is a minor unit?
A minor unit is a building or part of a building that is used for residential living. It is self-contained, is accessory to a main dwelling and is at most 50 m2, or 60 m2 if certified as functional for elderly or disabled residents. The use of a minor unit is not limited (i.e. anyone can live there) and it is a permanent building. Take a look at the zone rules in the Proposed Plan to find out more about minor units.
Can I still clear native vegetation (including kanuka/manuka) for firewood?
Landowners wanting to remove native trees from their rural properties may still be able to do so without a resource consent under Biodiversity rules in the Proposed District Plan.
Native vegetation rules in the Proposed District Plan allow for a number of situations where landowners can clear native trees, such as manuka and kanuka, without consent.
Beyond the listed situations (which can be read in the Proposed District Plan - Section 29 Biodiversit) Council will need to assess whether or not biodiversity values will be put at risk.
Existing use rights also still apply. If landowners are already legally harvesting manuka and kanuka for firewood, for example, they will be covered under their existing use rights if the scale and area of the project is similar.
If however, a new area of bush is being cleared and it is mostly native, then resource consent would be required. This is to ensure the Coromandel continues to retain areas of significant indigenous biodiversity.
Do I need resource consent to organise a fundraising event?
The Plan makes provision for festivals/events in most zones as a permitted activity subject to duration, frequency, location and whether overnight accommodation is provided. The frequency of festivals/ events in Residential Areas is more restrictive than in Rural Areas. Take a look at the zone rules to find out more about festivals/events.
How does the Plan address mining activities?
The mining policies and rules are in Sections 14 and 37 respectively. The Plan separates out mining activities into prospecting, exploration, quarrying, surface mining, underground mining, waste rock/tailings storage and mineral processing. Prospecting and exploration are generally permitted activities (exploration is subject to some conditions). The activity status of other mining activities depends upon their location and whether there are any identified special values (overlays). The Plan is strong on protecting the commercial and residential land resource and prohibits most mining activities in these locations.
What is historic heritage?
Historic heritage is the natural and physical resources that contribute to our understanding and appreciation of New Zealand's history and cultures. It helps us gain an understanding of New Zealand's past and how this shapes and defines our identity. Locally, heritage items, areas, sites of significance to Māori and archaeological sites contribute to the distinctive character of our District, serving as a reminder of the past for people now and in the future.
Why do we protect historic heritage?
Several pieces of legislation require the Council to identify and protect heritage resources. The Resource Management Act 1991 identifies the protection of historic heritage from inappropriate use, subdivision and development as a matter of national importance (section 6). Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 promotes the identification, protection, preservation and conservation of New Zealand's historic heritage. At a regional level the Waikato Regional Policy Statement requires the Council to protect, maintain or enhance historic heritage.
At a district level, protection of historic heritage provides us with cultural identity and a sense of place. The continuation of historic heritage is what enables us to connect with our family history and provides places to visit where our ancestors may have worked and lived. Protection of historic heritage also provides opportunities for tourism. Locally, our heritage is unique and of interest to tourists nationally and internationally. Tourism in turn generates employment and has flow on benefits to local businesses. Ultimately our efforts to identify and protect historic heritage benefits our children and grandchildren. Looking after our historic items and areas ensures that they have something to inherit, appreciate and value and provides them with future learning opportunities.
How does the Plan manage historic heritage?
The Plan contains a Historic Heritage Schedule identifying items and areas, archaeological sites and sites of significance to Māori. The locations of these are shown on the Planning Maps as overlays. The Council also holds a record form for each entry in the Historic Heritage Schedules in Appendix 1 of the Proposed Plan.
The Historic Heritage Overlay rules manage land disturbance and subdivision to ensure that archaeological sites and sites of significance to Māori are not damaged or destroyed. Where new sites are discovered the 'accidental discovery protocol' applies to enable the value of the site to be assessed and documented.
Activity and subdivision affecting a historic heritage item is carefully managed to retain the original values of the heritage item. This includes the curtilage (the area surrounding the item and elements that contribute to the physical setting and value of the item). Retention of the item on its original site is desirable however the Plan acknowledges that there are special circumstances where this is not possible. In these cases the Plan seeks to retain the item within the District.
Each of the identified heritage areas is unique. Each one has a different story and distinct elements which contribute to their heritage value. The Plan provides for the removal of buildings, other than heritage items, within these areas but controls the replacement building to make sure that it complements the identified value, character and appearance of the heritage area.
The Proposed District Plan does not protect all historic heritage. Only the district's top 25 archaeological sites are protected in the Proposed Plan. The other thousands of archaeological sites in the district are protected under the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014. There are many old buildings that contribute to the character of settlements in our district that are only protected by the goodwill of the landowners. The Proposed Plan only protects buildings and structures that play a significant role in the story of our district.
Very few of the sites of significance to Māori are currently protected in the Heritage Schedule. We expect more sites of significance to Māori will be added to the Schedule over time, especially after the Hauraki Treaty of Waitangi Settlement is passed, but there will always be some sites of significance that some iwi want to remain private.
Why does the District Plan deal with coastal hazards?
The New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement and Waikato Regional Policy Statement require the District Plan to identify and manage coastal hazard risk for land use. Aside from this, there are good reasons to identify and manage this risk in the District Plan.
- Current landowners are aware of the coastal erosion risk for their property. This may be better or worse than they assumed.
- Future property purchasers can factor the coastal erosion risk into their purchase decisions.
- The Council has a moral and legal responsibility to manage coastal risks. To have the information and not act on it, or keep it secret, could cause serious damage to people's property and have legal implications for the Council.
- It allows communities to work together to manage or reduce their coastal erosion risk. For example, landowners at Cooks Beach subject to coastal erosion risk are pitching in to construct a hard protection structure.
- If only one landowner tries to protect their property, by dumping rocks or building a wall, this usually ends up worsening erosion for their neighbours and damages the beach structure and environment.
What is the Current Coastal Erosion Area?
Land seaward of the green line is currently at risk of coastal erosion. This is the Current Coastal Erosion Area. The green line is the point at which erosion could get to after a series of extreme storm events, plus a 5 m buffer for safety and to allow for beach protection and regeneration. The closer to the ocean you go, the higher the risk. For this reason, we don't want to see permanent buildings built seaward of the green line. Small structures that aren't defined as buildings in the Plan are still permitted, but landowners should be aware of the risk level and plan accordingly.
What is the Future Coastal Process Area?
Land between the green dotted line and the green line is not currently at risk of coastal erosion, but this land may be at risk in the future from coastal processes resulting from projected sea level rise over the next 100 years. This is the Future Coastal Process Area. Within this Area, some development and use of land is allowed as usual within zone rules, although buildings with foundations should be designed to be relocatable (for example piles instead of concrete pads). To avoid more cost or risk for future generations, we want to avoid more intense residential use or key community assets in this area. Any resource consent also needs to show how it will deal with the projected future erosion risk.
Why is there no green dotted line along the Thames Coast?
The impact of sea level rise on coastal erosion risk along the Thames Coast has not been modelled. Inundation (coastal flooding) has also not been fully assessed, except at Tararu and Thames.
What if the green line sits over my house?
Where existing buildings were lawfully established they are protected by 'existing use rights.' Any building extension or new building seaward of the Current Coastal Erosion Line (the green line) would need a resource consent. In the consent, you would need to show that the development is not going to increase the overall coastal erosion risk to that property.
How will this affect my property value?
Coastal erosion risk information has been available since the 1990's and has been used in Land Information Memoranda and building consents since 2002. The information has been updated, refined and 'ground-truthed' to the point that we can now include it in the Plan. In many cases, the 2009 and 2012 refinements have moved the coastal erosion risk lines seaward. This may have improved property value for those sections. Property value is a market assessment, not a risk assessment, where buyer perception is paramount so it is difficult to predict how property values will be affected. Value may go up (because of the information refinements), down, or stay the same. In any case, coastal erosion risk is information that prospective purchasers understandably demand from the Council.
Can the line be changed to factor in new information or coastal protection structures?
If a coastal protection structure exists that protects an entire section of beach at risk of coastal erosion and meets the eight criteria set out in Section 34 of the Proposed Plan, the Current Coastal Erosion Line can be amended to reflect the protection that the structure provides. This needs to be done through a plan change. A residual risk area would be shown behind the protection structure, and the Future Coastal Process Area policy and rules would also still apply. If new information is only relevant to your property it will be taken into account as part of any resource consent for development. If it applies to a larger section of beach, this can be incorporated into a future review of the Coastal Erosion Lines.
Take a look at Section 34 to find out more about the Coastal Erosion rules.