OUR PROJECTS MACKENZIE DISTRICT PLAN REVIEW

CLIENT: Mackenzie District Council
DATE: 2022 - Ongoing
STATUS: Stages one and two complete, stage three and four underway

Mackenzie District Council (MDC) is updating its District Plan to ensure the Mackenzie District can grow in a sustainable way, while protecting the things that make the place so special.  

The Mackenzie District Plan largely became operative in 2004, and many elements are well out of date and do not meet MDC’s statutory requirements under the Resource Management Act 1991.

Mackenzie District is a small council with a limited budget. They needed to find a way of undertaking a project as significant as a District Plan Review but doing so on a relatively modest budget.

What is the District Plan?

A District Plan is essentially the rule book that sets district-wide rules for sustainably managing how people use, subdivide and develop land, what and where they can build and also what kind of activities they can undertake.

The Plan also controls any adverse effects an activity could have on the neighbourhood and protects the uniqueness of a District by looking after things like heritage, cultural values, outstanding landscapes and a range of other topics.

Why did it need to be reviewed?

The Mackenzie District Plan is currently 18 years old and needed to be reviewed and updated to better respond to the effects of growth, bring it into line with national and regional planning instruments, and implement the newly created Mackenzie Spatial Plans.

The current planning framework was outdated and had not kept pace with growth. This has led to outcomes that were not anticipated when the operative District Plan was drafted in 2004, which are affecting the communities of the Mackenzie.

At the same time, there are big changes on the horizon with regards to the Resource Management Act. MDC was keen to get ahead and update the District Plan to ensure it reflects the wishes of its communities.

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MDC Map
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WHAT DID WE DO?

Rationale was tasked with setting the foundation for the District Plan review, with a back to basics approach.

This aimed to understand what problems the Operative District Plan was causing the Mackenzie District, and what the benefits would be if these problems were addressed.

To do this, Rationale held a series of workshops with Mackenzie staff and elected members and developed and Investment Logic Map, which clearly laid out the need for investment and the overarching objectives of the review. This ILM was approved by councillors, and set the groundwork for the development of a District Plan Review Programme.

Working closely alongside MDC’s Planning department, led by Aaron Hakkaart, and a hand-picked team of experts, Rationale supported MDC to set up a delivery programme for the District Plan Review. This took an innovative approach to the review, seeing it split over five consecutive stages. This would allow the small team to tackle the review one bite at a time, ensuring constant progress could be made, while taking into account the limited resources at MDC’s disposal.

Once the programme had been set up and approved by Council, the project team transitioned into delivery mode. Rationale, led by Jimmy Sygrove, have taken responsibility for overall programme management and all public engagement, including communication planning, development of collateral and online engagement.

Community engagement has been a core focus of the District Plan review, with the project team looking to comprehensively engage with the community ahead of notification – using the results of engagement to directly inform the shape of the planning provisions. This has been done through a tailored mx of in person, online and remote engagement, utilising community open days, webinars, community surveys, targeted social media advertising and hard copy collateral.

The technical elements of RMA planning and law handled by the respective experts in the team, namely Louise Taylor, Liz White, Kylie Hall, Mike Garbett and Nick Boyes.

WHAT WAS THE RESULT?

The District Plan review is making fantastic progress since kicking off in mid 2022.

The first stage, which set the strategic direction for the review was notified as a plan change and following public consultation has subsequently been approved following hearings in December.

Stage Two covered the urban parts of the district, looking to implement the recently developed Mackenzie Spatial Plans. It also covered the rules around lighting, which is particularly important in the Mackenzie District, due to its famous dark sky reserve. Stage two was notified as two separate plan changes, with hearings completed in March 2023.

Stage Three was notified in November 2023. This covers the rural parts of the district as well as other significant chapters such as Sites and Areas of Significance to Māori and Natural Hazards.

The Review is progressing well, with strong support from the community, partner agencies and elected members. The approach taken regarding early, meaningful and comprehensive community engagement is proving to be valuable. By bringing people along for the ride and using their feedback to directly inform the development of the District Plan, the team are seeing the plan changes well supported when they are formally notified.

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