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Submitted 28 September 2022


This submission to the Independent Commissioners is on behalf of the 1,137 members, associates and friends of the Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers (RDRR). It is concerned with the Rotorua Lakes Council’s proposed Housing for Everyone: Plan Change 9 to the Rotorua District Plan. PC9 was authorised for notification and consultations on 25 August 2022 by the outgoing Council, that is, 50 days before the local government polling day of 8 October 2022.

This submission begins by summarising the purposes of PC9 and the proposed amendments to the Rotorua District Plan. It presents the preliminary views of a small number of RDRR members verbatim. It then summarizes the general concerns of 37 respondents in the second round of consultations as regards (a) low confidence in Council’s judgements, (b) how new legislation is forcing changes to Rotorua’s District Plan but encountering growing resistance, and (c) that adverse and positive effects that can be anticipated.

Accordingly, it offers seven recommendations to the Independent Commissioners:

R1: Ask the incoming Council to review its support for PC9.

R2: Ask the incoming Council to validate the projections of housing demand in PC9.

R3: Ask the incoming Council to review its commitment to the revocation and sale of reserves and part reserves and using a Local Bill to obtain exceptions to the Reserves Act.

R4: Evaluate the loss of amenity in Rotorua’s currently low-density Residential 1 areas against a proposed tripling of density.

R5: Invite Council to revise PC9 to confine its intensification plans to the CBD and immediately associated areas.

R6: Invite Council to revise PC9 in the light of an independent Infrastructure Assessment yet to be conducted.

R7: Invite Council to revise PC9 in the light of potentially adverse effects that have not been anticipated.


On 19 August 2022, the ratepayers and property owners were notified of Rotorua Lakes Council’s proposal: Housing for Everyone: Plan Change 9 to the Rotorua District Plan.

The aim declared was to “enable more housing development and greater housing choice in Rotorua city, as well as more efficient use of residential and commercial land in the city with increased development densities.” It also proposed changes that will impact the wider district, including changes to the provisions for managing flooding, financial contributions and papakāinga.

This notification was part of the streamlined intensification planning process. Planned Change 9 (PC9) is an Intensification Planning Instrument (“IPI”) under section 80E of the Resource Management Act 1991 (“RMA”). Council is required to prepare and notify an IPI to ratepayers and property owners potentially affected, in accordance with section 77G of the RMA.


According to the materials provided by Council, PC9 was developed to enable housing and increased urban density. It was developed in response to changes to the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) (following the enactment of the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2021) and the National Policy Statement on Urban Development 2020 (NPS-UD). These changes were collectively intended to encourage greater housing supply and choice in New Zealand’s cities experiencing high levels of growth. The enabling legislation was passed in December with cross-party support.

Rotorua has been identified by Council as an area of acute housing need. Council was therefore required by the new legislation to develop new Medium Density Residential Standards (MDRS) for relevant residential zones in Rotorua City.

These standards set out the rules that residential units will need to meet (with respect to matters such as the maximum number of residential units per site, maximum building height and minimum yards) to be permitted without resource consent, unless a “Qualifying Matter” or exemption applies. This means that a council can only avoid applying the government-mandated standards by identifying a “qualifying matter”.

In brief, the new standards will enable landowners to build up to three houses of up to three stories high on their site as of right (that is, without resource consents or objections from neighbours), unless a resource consent is required for another reason, such as a “Qualifying Matter”.

Additionally, the Council is required to amend the District Plan across all urban zones so that heights and densities of development enabled by the plan are consistent with the NPS-UD. This requires that the heights and densities enabled are to reflect (a) how close the area is to services such as infrastructure and (b) the demand for housing and business in that location.


The proposed changes vary by zones:

  1. Residential Zones
  2. Amending the boundaries of the Residential 1 Zone and Residential 2 Zone and renaming these ‘Medium Density Residential Zone’ and ‘High Density Residential Zone’ respectively.
  3. Incorporating the new Medium Density Residential Standards into the Residential 1 Zone and Residential 2 Zones, but with some changes to enable higher density residential development in the Residential 2 Zone (for example, an increased maximum height standard).
  4. Retaining the existing provisions and not extending the MDRS to the Residential 3 Zone villages of Ngāpuna, Ōhinemutu and Whakarewarewa on the basis that cultural matters constitute a “Qualifying Matter” that enables the exclusion of the MDRS from these areas.
  • City Centre and Commercial Zones
  • Amending the city centre and commercial zone provisions to increase the opportunity for permitted residential units.
  • Increasing height limits for buildings and amending other standards to enable increased density.
  • Amending provisions to support quality development through assessment of building design.
  • Other Changes to Provisions
  • Set the standards for papakāinga development throughout the district.
  • Manage flooding and geothermal hazards.
  • Protect heritage structures.
  • Set financial contributions from the development of reserves.

Rules permitting residential units that comply with the MDRS within the Residential 1 Zone and Residential 2 Zone had immediate legal effect from the notification of PC9 on 20 August 2022 (unless a “Qualifying Matter” applies). This means that there is already far greater opportunity for constructing housing without the need to apply for a resource consent on many residential zoned sites throughout Rotorua. A couple pointed out a problem with such instant authorization:

PC9 appears not to have any sense of gradualism. There is no suggestion that an area of the city is to be set aside for a trial of intensification.  Perhaps better still, a new suburb is created having its own subset of intensification rules to establish what works and what doesn’t.  Allowing comparatively unfettered intensification will guarantee anger from existing residents.

Other parts of Plan Change 9 will only have legal effect once decisions have been made and notified by Council, after the submission and hearings process.

Key steps in the process involve notifying the plan change for submissions and a hearing of submissions by independent commissioners are outlined below:

  Councils required to notify intensification plan changes by August 2022        →      Submission period        →  Independent panel hears submissions and makes recommendations to the Council.        →    If Council agrees with recommendations, it notifies decision        →If Council disagrees with the independent panel’s recommendations, the Minister for the Environment makes the decision.

The MDRS for residential zones are set out in the RMA and are not subject to a Council decision. Council will, however, make decisions on other parts of PC9.


On notification of PC9 by Council, the 1,137 members, associates and friends of RDRR were asked if they wanted a briefing on the Council’s intensification proposals. There were five immediate responses, anonymized as follows, with some overlap evident with (a) Council’s recent decision to sell reserves or part reserves to social housing developers and (b) consequences associated with the growth of Rotorua’s homeless industry. This implies that the Independent Commissioners should give serious regard to these two features as relevant contextual considerations:

  1. We don’t want it to change to two-story buildings. We like our area the way it is in Ngongotaha. Please leave our parks alone.
  • The aspects that concern me are not mentioned in the notice from Council. I have not yet tried to find where and what the details are. Site coverage, daylighting, vehicle access and parking space, yard dimensions, shared spaces, utility spaces (storage/workshop etc), lifts/stairs, decks etc.
  • It would seem the second part of their plan is now being implemented. Their lack of planning and overreaching bureaucratic rules would now appear to be catching up with them.

Their first plan, to become developers by grabbing public parks land, has been met with resistance so now they want to allow more housing in the same area. It’s another easy out as roading, water, power and infrastructure is already there.

I’m very much in favour of change in some areas but putting three houses on a section or three-storied houses in a residential area doesn’t add any long-term social value or aesthetics to the skyline. It does have the opposite effect as we have seen in a bigger way with transitional motels where too many people with lots of personalities can’t get away from each other.

Rotorua District Council needs help with investors and developers and the general public with consents. They are the sole reason why new land is so hard to make available for development.

I have to do some more reading. From what I have read so far it seems very vague and I may well be making a few assumptions.

  • Absolutely against parks being put into housing. I live by a park that is used by the people of Ngongotaha for activities. Parks are necessary for any future in Rotorua. High density housing and heights are a worry to be incorporated into local established subdivisions.

Also a worry as what they will turn into in the future. Know people need to be housed but should be thought about and planned, not a knee jerk reaction. Parks for kids and communities are essential.

For narrow minded thinking look at the motels here now. Not good. We are getting bombarded with street racers wheeling around night or day – doesn’t worry them.

  • We were concerned about the development of the plot on the corner of X and Y. My wife and I bought the house next door, number XXX. I contacted Council and got a call back from them. It may have been XXX XXX who we dealt with to get our shared fence approved. The pump house/ storeroom currently sits in the middle of the property, on the boundary between two plots.

I was told that the Council were planning to subdivide the plot that borders with our property into three properties and put them up for public auction. We are concerned about the intensified development of the plot, and, if bought out by the government owned entities, they could turn it into lower-cost housing and drop the value of the surrounding properties, ours included.

I am not sure if they have considered the noise factor that reverberates from the pumps when they are in action, or to the new potential property owners either.


The second round of consultations elicited 37 responses. Content analysis identified eight recurrent themes.

  1. Low Legitimacy of the Outgoing Council’s Decision

The notification of PC9 followed a Council decision passed on 25 August by the retiring Mayor’s casting vote 50 days before the 8 October 2022 local elections. There is a widespread sense of powerlessness among RDRR’s members, associates, and friends against a Council making yet another bad decision, and therefore the need for “deep change” in policy making processes and priorities.

One couple spoke for many when they said:

This is another thing – not thought through, not consulted upon, not looking at the whole picture and the possible/probable adverse effects.  I can see the Law of Unintended Consequences coming into play immediately if it is allowed to pass.

Let’s HOPE the Commissioners get the picture and wipe the whole lot!

Another respondent suggested that the Independent Commissioners consider recommending that

all prospective developers/purchasers relying on the Council’s implementation of PC9 do so at their own risk as the Plan Change may be withdrawn by an incoming Council.

The low legitimacy of the 25 August decision by Council is the reason for the first recommendation to the Independent Commissioners:

R1: That the Independent Commissioners ask the incoming Council to review its support for PC9.

  • Implausible Housing Demand Projections

Respondents were variously concerned that the out-going Council, that identified Rotorua District as having a “housing crisis”, may well have exaggerated a long-standing shortfall in housing supply for political reasons.

Four dimensions of probable exaggeration were identified by respondents.

  1. Council commissioned research which used low- and high-growth assumptions to project a band of probable demand but then inexplicably adopted the upper limit for planning purposes.
  2. Dated population data and economic growth projections from Infometrics were used to extrapolate housing shortages.
  3. Emigration from Rotorua and churn in Rotorua’s housing market were not considered and should have been to get an accurate projection of demand at all levels of the housing continuum.
  4. Council may also have added artificial demand for new home builds from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development’s applications for 13 motels to be given consents to process over 1,000 homeless people from New Zealand every three months for five years, totalling up to 20,000. This would add 21 per cent to the current population and fundamentally alter the demographics of Rotorua, but without democratic consent.

One respondent voiced a general concern as follows:

Is the idea of Rotorua having an “acute housing need” broadly accepted? We have been hearing the term “housing crisis” regularly of late as though it is established fact. But it is not clear to me that if 1,000 new houses were to magically appear one day soon they would all be snapped up by first home buyers or similar. In fact PC9 might do little for first home buyers – one of the most important segments of the general NZ housing problem.

Hence the second recommendation to the Independent Commissioners:

R2: That the Independent Commissioners ask the incoming Council to validate the projections of housing demand in PC9.

  • Violating Council’s Green Spaces Policy

The next major factor undermining public confidence in the outgoing Council’s judgement is their recent decision to evade its own Green Spaces policy in favour of selling reserves or part reserves to social housing providers, primarily Kāinga Ora, at secret prices. Despite widespread public resistance, Council decided (also using the retiring Mayor’s casting vote) to proceed with many proposed revocations and submit a Local Bill to Parliament to legitimize exceptions to the Reserves Act.

Accordingly, many respondents drew attention to the poor quality of Council’s decision-making. One wrote:

Given recent experience with the Reserves issue it is difficult to imagine Council and/or its employees have looked carefully around the town and considered the impact of the proposed intensification. In other words, as you say, one size doesn’t fit all and cannot possibly be appropriate in all cases.

There are two precedents deeply troubling to RDRR members established by the out-going Council’s decision on 25 August.

  1. It knowingly violated Council’s Green Spaces policy intended to protect public use in perpetuity of spaces (like the reserves and the Springfield Golf Course).
  2. It gave mana whenua the first-right-of-refusal of such sales, which arbitrarily extended the Gifted Reserves Protocols to the sale of public land held in trust by Council.

One respondent suggested more acceptable alternatives:

A recommendation that all sales of public property be subject to an open tender would be positive … [as would] … a recommendation that tangata whenua be granted first right of refusal at market valuation by open process.

Another related factor creating deep doubts about the outgoing Council’s ability to make wise judgements about housing is that it is considered to have created a “homeless industry” in concert with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and MHUD. The scale of the industry is clear at RotoruaNZ’s “Accommodation Dashboard.” It indicates that, of the 153 Accommodation providers listed, 88 are operating as tourist accommodation, 61 are offering Emergency Housing of which 15 are Mixed Use, with four closed. 4 are closed. The question uppermost in RDRR’s members minds is how to halt the growth and reverse the 40 per cent market share achieved by Emergency Housing providers?

Council is seen to be deeply implicated in the homeless industry. It allowed Rotorua’s motels to provide permanent “temporary accommodation” for the homeless, despite the 28-day stay limit in the District Plan. This redeployment of tourism infrastructure is now seriously retarding the recovery of the hospitality and tourism industry. The surge in crime associated with the homeless industry has undermined Rotorua’s reputation as a safe place to visit and work. One respondent spoke for many when he argued that:

… Rotorua was originally graded at level 2 which put limited housing development in place. However, our Council requested the upgrade to level 1 because of the urgent need for more housing. This, of course has been exacerbated by the poorly considered practice of bringing in homeless people from all over. Of course, we needed to share the problem but not to the degree that we have witnessed and to the detriment of our city. Our value to New Zealand has been as a tourist city with wide open streets, low level buildings, beautiful surroundings and an integrated population. We value our immigrants and take pride in strong Māori roots.

There appears to be little chance of a sophisticated review of housing demand at all parts of the housing continuum until an in-coming Council takes responsibility and adopts evidence-based decision making. There is little confidence in the out-going Council’s willingness to take diverse perspectives into account in the public interest using an inclusive policy research process. Hence the third recommendation:

R3: That the Independent Commissioners ask the incoming Council to review its commitment to the revocation and sale of reserves and part reserves and using a Local Bill to obtain exceptions to the Reserves Act.

  • The New Laws are Forcing Unwelcome Changes to Rotorua’s District Plan

Rotorua’s District Plan was devised and incrementally refined to ensure a balanced consideration of local economic, social, cultural and environmental factors, and to provide transparent decision making and local accountability for functional and aesthetic housing outcomes that are tailored to the particular character desired by the residents of Rotorua.

The new laws intend that landowners in residential zones may be able to extend or build up to three houses, up to three storeys high, without needing a resource consent. The changes proposed will also introduce no minimum lot sizes for residential subdivisions, within certain conditions, meaning that more dwellings will be able to go on sections than have been allowed in the past.

The changes will generate significant, abrupt and adverse effects on amenity across all of Rotorua’s currently low-density Residential 1 areas. A tripling of density is effectively permitted, with a significant relaxation of the current bulk and location rules.

For example, the standard minimum road boundary setback will be relaxed from 5m to 1.5m, the side boundary setback from 2.5m to 1m. This is a major departure from current controls which have been carefully calibrated to the requirements of Rotorua. Developments built to these standards will have a major negative impact on the amenity of adjoining residents. Suddenly, three-storey buildings can be built close to the boundary, with no restrictions on overlooking and loss of privacy for the unfortunate neighbours who happen to live next to one.

The small size of the outdoor living area required for each of the new dwellings will also ensure that the amenity for occupants of these new developments will be nowhere near the relatively high standard that Rotorua residents have come to enjoy. Enjoyment of outdoor spaces will be shifted onto public reserves, which the out-going Council has been actively seeking to sell.

One respondent predicted:

… there’ll be no uniformity that correlates with the original housing plans and anything can and will be inserted to fill their (council/developers’) dreams and defiant want for intensified housing … their only ‘go to’ remedy it seems. This will still allow social housing to be dumped into our [neighbour]hoods with the Council washing their hands of too much of the problem. 

There has also been serious internal pushback by senior staff against the Council preparing PC9. The Council’s Planning Policy Team Leader resigned in protest at the direction being dictated by central government. The development of PC9 had to be escalated to the Deputy Chief Executive District Development, who is directed by the Chief Executive within the policy context controlled by the Mayor. The key issue here is that PC9 was developed by a small political and administrative elite in Rotorua to implement legislation that is forcing changes to Rotorua’s District Plan, changes that are considered unwise and known to be intensely unpopular, especially in low-density Residential 1 areas.

R4: That the Independent Commissioners evaluate the loss of amenity in Rotorua’s currently low-density Residential 1 areas against a proposed tripling of density.

  • The Uneven Relevance of Medium Density Residential Standards to Rotorua

Most respondents were baffled as to why the retiring Council decided to invite the Government to apply the Medium Density Residential Standards across the board in Rotorua. They are aware of growing resistance in Christchurch, Hamilton and Waipa.

Many supported ACT’s call for decision making to stay with councils to save infrastructure costs, by concentrating densification in specific areas, and for the government to share 50 percent of GST revenue of building a new house with the local council which issued the consent to cover infrastructure costs connected to new housing developments.

The main point here is that the original application of the MDRS was intended for the bigger urban areas of New Zealand such as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. In those cities an increase of the density now permitted is more understandable because of the higher inner-city amenity of those cities helps offset the negative effects of density.

Proximity to nightlife, museums and shopping are all important drawcards for inner city living but are not present to nearly the same degree in Rotorua, where most amenity is derived from the low-density residential environment and access to the outdoors. Certainly not Rotorua’s CBD in its current state.

Against this backdrop, the economic motivation for higher densities in a city as small as Rotorua, with very different economic drivers present compared to New Zealand’s large cities, is also widely questioned. In fact, the planning documents supporting the proposed PC9 raise these issues. In the conclusion to the Economic Assessment prepared by Market Economics (Appendix 8), the report states, in respect of the High-Density Residential zone:

The spatial extent of the plan enabled allowance for higher vertical development (under the HDR zone) is large in comparison to the patterns of higher density residential development in other urban economies.

The higher density housing options are generally proposed in appropriate areas of highest accessibility, which contributes positively to urban form outcomes. However, the spatial extent of these provisions may dilute the level of concentration around key nodes and reduce the benefits that could occur through intensification

The report also indicates that the benefits of higher density development are only really realised where that density is concentrated and can leverage off access to amenity and transport, eventually creating a “virtuous cycle”.

Dilution across the entire urban area, however, will significantly hamper that concentration and creation of positive urban outcomes, and effectively result in only negative effects on amenity. The very last paragraph of the report is highly salient in this regard:

The alternative option may act to increase the concentration of higher density development around key nodes of accessibility and reduce the extent to which it is diluted across the urban environment. As such, it may increase the benefits associated with concentrating growth into these areas.

To reiterate, higher densities that bring with them benefits such as increased concentration, more efficient use of infrastructure, better access etc will only be realised where provisions concentrate higher densities into specific locations. Enabling higher densities everywhere will only spread development across Rotorua’s urban area slowly, with infrastructure provision in perpetual “catch up” mode, without any of the attendant benefits of higher density.

A respondent expressed the fears of many:

I have never taken a Rotorua house through the existing consenting process but anecdotally it can be a slow, expensive, and frustrating process which one seldom hears a defence of. However, PC9 will have some people wishing we had never changed the existing process. Under PC9, building/ demolition work next door could be the first indication that three stories were about to block sun, view or whatever!!

In a lower density environment like Rotorua, where few of the preconditions exist to encourage higher density, it is even more important to concentrate any higher density in specific locations to maximise the benefits of potential changes.

At the end of the day, all PC9 will do is increase the potential for higher densities across the urban area, with attendant inefficiencies of provide ng infrastructure, bringing with it none of the benefits of high density but all the costs. Hence the fifth recommendation:

R5: That the Independent Commissioners invite Council to revise PC9 to confine its intensification plans to the CBD and immediately associated areas.

  • The Absence of an Infrastructure Assessment

An important question left unanswered by the PC9 documents is the capacity of infrastructure to support the proposed changes. There are only a few short paragraphs around p. 16 of the Section 32 report that deal with this question. They leave unanswered whether Rotorua’s infrastructure can deal with up to a tripling of density anywhere within the urban area. It is acknowledged that this increase will not happen overnight, but the real risk is pockets of increased density are developed anywhere within the Residential 1 zone, isolated from infrastructure planning and upgrades.

For example, as one respondent pointed out:

it is possible that increased densities could be developed along the eastern side of Pukehangi Road facing that land that has had Qualifying Matters applied, on the western side. Those same stormwater issues that triggered application of the Qualifying Matters on the western side of Pukehangi Road are also present on the eastern side, but under PC9, Council would have no ability to control a cluster of high-density developments in this area, which would generate significant stormwater effects downstream.

The Council response may be to levy Development Contributions targeted at this area, but how can that be carried out in an integrated and anticipated way when such development can happen anywhere? What would happen is, instead of integrated forward planning, Council would be forever playing “catch up” by reacting to and therefore following the higher-density developments, which is profoundly bad planning, and will cost the city dearly in the future.

Another respondent recommended that

if higher density is permitted that it will be subject to assessment for ability to connect to stormwater and sewerage systems without the need for infrastructure upgrade and not on a first-come-first-served basis.

The key point is that the ability to service higher densities should have been properly examined as part of the preparation of this PC9. It has not been done and should have been, at least to inform ratepayers as to likely costs and impact on rates. One respondent noted:

Other Councils are pushing back, as per the pamphlet from Waipa District Council, …. They don’t accept the directions from central government and are rightly concerned that the directions will result in significant costs for their ratepayers. And that is from a relatively well-off rate base that includes Cambridge. It is even more imperative for Rotorua that the impact on infrastructure is carefully examined to avoid any greater impact on already stretched ratepayers suffering from a rates affordability crisis.

But then perhaps that has been the motive all along from Council – through Three Waters the central government can claim to bail councils out of a tight corner, a corner that central government has painted councils into.

It is also unfortunate that many parts of Rotorua’s residential zones do not appear to have the capacity in their infrastructure to support the rapid intensification of housing, or at least that is not demonstrated in the Section 32 analysis and supporting documents. A major flaw to Council’s PC9 policy process is that an Infrastructure Assessment has not been conducted to enable what the Local Government Act requires – effective and democratic decision making.

The absence of an Infrastructure Assessment would be a significant factor in a Judicial Review because due process has not been followed – an infrastructure assessment is essential to making an informed decision on such a plan change like this. The primary factors examined through judicial review are whether all relevant matters were considered, whether irrelevant matters were considered, whether the law has been misinterpreted or misapplied and whether the decisions were arrived at in a rational and reasonable way.  

The new laws could well have perverse outcomes. Given the infrastructure challenges in Rotorua, its rising building costs and supply chain challenges, it is more likely that existing property owners may take the opportunity to build rental units on their properties, without needing resource consent. Professional developers may look for opportunities to acquire adjoining sections to build multiple townhouses.

Over time, these changes imposed by the new laws, that use a one-size-fits-all approach, have the potential to significantly change our neighbourhoods and the unique character of Rotorua’s city and villages but without the informed consent of the people. Council is required by law to make the changes and intensify its housing, but only because Council decided to opt into the Tier 1 provisions and implement MDRS to enable intensification.

It is acknowledged that Council has had serious staffing problems in the Planning Policy Team, including the Lead resigning in protest at the direction to draft the PC9, suggesting that there is limited professional support for PC9 in Council.

R6: Invite Council to revise PC9 in the light of an independent Infrastructure Assessment yet to be conducted.

  • Adverse Effects have Not Been Anticipated by PC9

RDRR respondents consider that the PC9 proposal takes an overly optimistic view of potentially adverse effects that should have been treated as relevant considerations. 

Future Councils will have far less control over site coverage, height, and setbacks and this may impact on sunlight, privacy and views. Some policies which aim to protect the unique heritage and character values of Rotorua may need to be relaxed or removed to meet the recent legislative requirements imposed by Government.

Many residential sections will be unable to meet the criteria for full development because of maximum site coverage limits. Adverse effects can be expected.

As noted above, developers could well buy adjoining sections, remove houses and then redevelop multiple sections. Landowners could take advantage of the new standards to build smaller second and third units (including main home extensions, granny flats and tiny houses) without the need for resource consent or subdivision.

This means that a neighbour can build three three-story houses, if certain criteria are met and no qualifying matters apply to the site, without seeking permission of neighbours and them having no opportunity to appeal.

It also means that largely uncontrolled infill and subdivision housing development will require Councils to pay for the new infrastructure by collecting financial contributions from developers when they seek building consents. These contributions allow Council to require money or land or a combination to offset the costs of infrastructure needed for new developments, such as roads, pipes, and sales that are needed to service additional houses.

These contributions include offsets for permitted activities that don’t need a resource consent. However, if the required offset is not paid, the building consent will not be issued, and the developer may be subject to enforcement proceedings.

Sub-standard housing can be expected in residential zones. Under the proposed new rules, neighbours will not be able to object to developments happening nearby if all the requirements and standards of the modified Rotorua District Plan are met. Council will not be required to notify or advise neighbours of all new buildings and the first indication that will have is when demolition and/ or constructions starts.

It is acknowledged that any new construction will still have to meet Building Code requirements.

R7: That the Independent Commissioners invite Council to revise PC9 in the light of potentially adverse effects that have not been anticipated.

  • Positive Effects can be Anticipated

On one hand, the new planning rules will apply to all homeowners and developers. On the other, Councils will be able to modify the MDRS in limited instances as a result of “qualifying matters”. Included here are heritage buildings, sites of significance to mana whenua, public access to rivers and lakes, natural hazards and significant indigenous vegetation. One respondent reported a positive experience when seeking clarification from Council:

I decided to inquire directly from the Council and I’m happy to report that I received a reply very quickly containing all the relevant information and the maps.

I also asked if that meant that I could, if I so wished, have a relative build on part of my property without the need to purchase the plot. The answer was, YES as long as all the necessary by laws were met. So, I am happy to report back to you that there is nothing suspicious about it.

In saying that, it is a cause of concern for many people when they envisage three-story buildings being erected just over the fence. It is also concerning to think of so much development going on in thermal areas when the crust of the earth is fragile.

The Operations Group, Planning and Development Solutions of Council provided links on request to the relevant maps here and the layers on Council’s Geyserview here.

The new planning rules focus on medium density residential standards for urban zones. They will have minimal impact on rural and large-lot residential zones. The central government already has new regulations in place which prevent councils requiring developers to provide off-road parking. Developers will have to decide whether to make such provisions. It can be an acute matter, as one respondent clarified:

My concern with housing intensification is also cars being parked on the roads as there won’t be enough car parking at their residence. On my street alone, if we have cars parked on both sides of the street it reduces it down to a one lane road, and I would be worried that larger Emergency vehicles like an ambulance and fire truck wouldn’t have access. It may be worth noting that this has been an issue in parts of Auckland where I used to live.

It also creates animosity between neighbours. Especially when you have neighbours’ cars parked outside your bedroom window and people are creating noise disturbances at different times of the night when neighbours are trying to sleep.

It was acknowledged above that dwellings will still have to meet Building Code standards. Councils will only be able to regulate a very limited aspect of the building’s design as set out in the standards (such as height, setback, shading and open space). In some parts of Rotorua, the availability of appropriate infrastructure will moderate Council’s issuing of building consents.

Wholesale intensification is unlikely across entire residential zones due to the 50 per cent maximum site coverage rule. Property owners are more likely to build second (or for larger properties, third) rental units, granny flats or tiny homes or main home extensions. Professional developers are more likely to buy adjacent sections for comprehensive townhouse developments, and most of these will require infrastructure capacity assessments and/ or resource consents.

Overall, as one respondent suggested, it would be helpful if Council zones “be amended to define the distance within which higher density would access services by pedestrians (frequently 400m is used).”


This submission presents the views of RDRR’s 1,137 members to the Independent Commissioners that are evaluating the Rotorua Lakes Council’s proposed Housing for Everyone: Plan Change 9 to the Rotorua District Plan.

It acknowledges the purposes of PC9 and the proposed amendments to the Rotorua District Plan. It presents the preliminary views of a small number of members verbatim. It then summarizes the general concerns of 37 respondents as regards confidence in council’s judgements, how the new laws are forcing changes to Rotorua’s District Plan.

There is a widespread appreciation that, while PC9 attempts to respond to many historical factors, it has disconnected local housing policy from many other relevant considerations. One respondent observed that:

This government initiative has been made to solve a problem as a one-size-fits-all solution. The engineering requirements within urban boundaries can vary significantly. Rotorua has a significant engineering problem that increases the cost of building beyond affordable housing expectations. Much of our infrastructure is outdated. Our council has not kept up with maintenance and repairs. Any boost in housing numbers needs to be aligned with industrial, educational, and health facilities growth.

To conclude, RDRR notes that many adverse and positive effects that can be anticipated from the P9 proposed. It offers seven recommendations to the Independent Commissioners:

R1: Ask the incoming Council to review its support for PC9.

R2: Ask the incoming Council to validate the projections of housing demand in PC9.

R3: Ask the incoming Council to review its commitment to the revocation and sale of reserves and part reserves and using a Local Bill to get exceptions to the Reserves Act.

R4: Evaluate the loss of amenity in Rotorua’s currently low-density Residential 1 areas against a proposed tripling of density.

R5: Invite Council to revise PC9 to confine its intensification plans to the CBD and immediately associated areas.

R6: Invite Council to revise PC9 in the light of an independent Infrastructure Assessment.

R7: Invite Council to revise PC9 in the light of potentially adverse effects that have not been anticipated.

Members of the RDRR are directly affected by the provisions of PC9. They could not gain an advantage in trade competition through this submission. The RDRR wishes to be heard by the Independent Commissioners.

Reynold Macpherson, 28 September 2022

Chairman, RDRR

484 Pukehangi Road, 07 346 8553, 021 725 708,