The statutory context in the Auckland region has changed dramatically following the amalgamation of the former regional council and the seven city/district councils into a single unitary authority.
This has also occurred amidst a backdrop of nationwide reform to key statutes such as the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) and the Local Government Act 2002 (LGA). Key legislation influencing WSD outcomes is introduced below.
The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA)
The RMA has a single key purpose: to ensure that natural and physical resources are sustainably managed for present and future generations. This sustainable management purpose, and its associated principles, underpins all decisions made under the RMA.
Auckland Council has prepared a unitary plan, the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP), to address its statutory requirements, including controls for development, subdivision and stormwater management. The PAUP was released as a publicly notified proposed plan in September 2013. The PAUP gives effect to strategic direction on resource management set at the national level through the National Policy Statements (NPS) and National Environmental Standards (NES). The government has signalled an intention to provide more national guidance on resource management. The existing NPSs of relevance are:
- NPS - NZ Coastal Policy Statement (managing coastal areas)
- NPS - Freshwater Management (managing water resources)
- Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act, Sections 7 and 8 (managing the Hauraki Gulf).
Auckland Council is currently working on the planning phase for the NPS - Freshwater Management. It is anticipated that this work will form the Council’s overarching freshwater planning framework, and that programmes such as WSD will be continued as part of the implementation of the Policy. The setting of freshwater management units, attributes and limits will be included in the PAUP once agreed, and might have implications for WSD implementation.
The Local Government Act 2002 (LGA)
Significant changes were made to the LGA 2002 in 2012. This included a new Section 10 relating to the purpose of local government as follows:
- The purpose of local government is:
- to enable democratic local decision-making and action by, and on behalf of, communities; and
- to meet the current and future needs of communities for good-quality local infrastructure, local public services, and performance of regulatory functions in a way that is most cost-effective forhouseholds and businesses.
- In this Act, good-quality, in relation to local infrastructure, local public services, and performance of regulatory functions, means infrastructure, services, and performance that are:
- efficient; and
- effective; and
- appropriate to present and anticipated future circumstances.
Other key documents
There are a number of other statutory and guideline documents discussed below that influence the use of WSD as a design approach for land development and stormwater management.
Building Act 2004
The strict standards applied by the Building Act mean that design solutions, even those which have already received resource consent, may need further modification to accommodate building code requirements. In this manner, WSD design approaches may conflict with standardised codes and require additional technical assessment.
Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992
Requirements under this Act may conflict with WSD design solutions. Conflicts may be in terms of safe construction and safe ongoing operation, which may require additional technical assessment.
Reserves Act 1977
The Reserves Act is the primary piece of legislation for administering reserves. Its purpose includes providing for the preservation and management of areas that have ecological, landscape, natural, scenic, historic or cultural values, and existing or potential recreational use for public benefit and enjoyment.
The Act requires that reserves must be classified according to their principal or primary purpose. This requirement ensures that they are used, managed and developed appropriately. The majority of reserves in Auckland are classified as ‘recreation’, ‘scenic’, ‘historic’ and ‘local purpose’ reserves.
The Act requires the development of management plans for all reserves except those classified as ‘local purpose’ and ‘government purpose’. Where management plans are available, they outline Council’s general intentions and provide direction on the use, maintenance, protection and development of its reserves.
The creation of reserves is supported by provisions in the RMA and the LGA as follows:
- The RMA enables the creation of esplanade reserves and esplanade strips where an allotment of less than 4 ha is created where land is subdivided adjacent to a water body (the sea, a river which has an average width of 3 m or greater, or a lake). The purpose of esplanades is to maintain or enhance the natural functioning of the adjacent water body, and/or enable public access and recreational use. The basic width requirement is 20 m measured from the mean high water springs mark. Applications can be made to waive or reduce the width of esplanades.
- The LGA provides for development contribution charges to be made for residential developments to pay for the cost of community and network infrastructure needed to meet the additional demand for growth. This includes stormwater infrastructure and reserve land.
Standards Act 1988 - NZS:4404 Land Development and Subdivision Engineering
While NZS:4404 is a guidance document, it is widely used by territorial authorities and designers for technical compliance of subdivision and land development where these activities are subject to the RMA. Use of the standard often required compliance with the minimum specific standard as opposed to providing guidance for alternative design approaches. The standard was recently updated in 2010 to encourage sustainable and innovative LID approaches, which should improve the potential for WSD approaches to demonstrate compliance.
Auckland Council publishes design standards as codes of practice, which include a section on stormwater management and form part of NZS:4404.
Land Transport Management Act 2003 (LTMA)
New or revised policies prepared under the LTMA reflect a more integrated approach to transport and land use planning for more sustainable outcomes. The common theme of transport-related documents is to achieve “an affordable, integrated, safe, responsive, and sustainable land transport system”.
The national land transport strategy, prepared under the LTMA, sets clear targets for New Zealand, such as ‘environmental sustainability’, and identifies clear measures to achieve these targets.
New transport policy has led to changes in government agency and local government funding and priorities for transport projects. These changes have implications for the development community by making certain locations more desirable for development due to investment in transport infrastructure. The LTMA is concerned about integrated land use development, i.e. the coordinated development of transport infrastructure and land use development. This approach aligns well with The Auckland Plan where areas for new development are identified partly based on the availability of transport infrastructure.
Under the LTMA, urban design and environmental enhancement are given weighting within the design approval framework, providing potential for consideration of WSD as an approach to stormwater management, and improving the quality of design and environmental outcomes.
Codes of Practice (CoP), Auckland Design Manual (ADM)
Auckland Council, Watercare and Auckland Transport have codes of practice for engineering design for infrastructure. These codes set minimum standards and are used by Council staff for engineering approval. Similarly the ADM provides guidance for urban design and should be used in conjunction with GD04 to maximise design outcomes for Auckland.