District plans are reviewed approximately every 10 years.
Additionally, they can be subject to changes proposed by a local authority or private party which seek to amend parts of the plan.
Because the district plan dictates what you can do with your land it is important to be aware of any proposed changes or reviews that may impact on your land.
Notably, where the use of land has been lawfully established (because it was a permitted activity when it was commenced or in reliance on a resource consent) it is possible to rely on existing use rights for that continued use of the land when the plan provisions change.
However, existing use rights can have their own difficulties and it is therefore advisable to become involved in the district plan process to protect your property rights.
Once a proposed plan or plan change is publicly notified, any person may submit on the proposed change, unless they could gain an advantage in trade competition through the submission.
Where this is the case, a trade competitor may only submit if they are directly affected by an effect of the activity that is adverse to the environment and does not relate to trade competition or the effects of trade competition.
In the case of a proposed plan, the closing date for submissions shall be at least 40 working days after public notification; and in the case of a proposed plan change the closing date for submissions will be at least 20 working days after public notification.
Proposed plans and changes are published in most newspapers and on the relevant council's website. The relevant council is also required to notify all landowners who may be affected by a proposed plan change.
A submission on a proposed plan or plan change should address the reasons a submitter is in support or opposition to the proposed provisions.
It is important to note that the submission cannot oppose the proposed plan in its entirety, but rather must be made in the prescribed form which requires identification of the specific provisions of the proposal to which the submission relates.
The matters raised in a submission frame the scope of the issues the submitter can raise during the hearing process. It is critical to be clear as to the relief sought in the submission (i.e. how you would like the proposed provisions to be changed).
A council is obliged to hold a hearing into submissions if any submitter requests to be heard.
The council will usually appoint a panel who will hear all the submissions on the proposed district plan and issue its decision.
The panel may be made up of elected members (councillors), independent commissioners, or both.
The council must issue its decision no later than two years after notifying the proposed plan change and must give public notice of the decision.
A proposed plan or plan change will be assessed against the matters set out in s 32 and 32AA of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA).
This includes an assessment against whether the proposed provisions are the most appropriate way to achieve the purpose of the RMA.
Appeals can be lodged against the part of the decision or plan provisions to which the original submission related. Any appeal must be made within 30 working days of service of the notice of decision.
*Bill Loutit heads the Resources and Infrastructure department at Simpson Grierson. He is a leading litigator and an expert in alternative dispute resolution in the administrative law, environmental, resource management and local government fields.