This note has been updated for 2017 and 2020 amendments but not updated for best practice.
The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) allows anyone to seek changes to district or regional plans through a request for a private plan change. Requests for private plan changes enable innovative proposals to be tested through the RMA process and allow applicants to initiate change without waiting for a plan review. Part 2 of Schedule 1 of the RMA sets out procedural matters for councils to follow in dealing with requests for plan changes.
Because of the costly and often lengthy nature of the private plan change process, it is generally used to provide for large-scale developments on large areas of land. Councils and applicants need to work closely together from the start of the process to reduce delays and minimise costs where possible.
Councils normally require very detailed information and must consider the cumulative effects of private plan changes when making a decision. The impact of existing activities on the proposed development (including reverse sensitivity effects) is an important area for consideration where the plan change request relates to the rezoning of land.
An applicant can request a private plan change at any time, but a change can only be made to an operative plan. When it receives a request for a plan change, a council must decide whether to adopt a plan change, accept it as a private plan change, convert it to a resource consent, or reject it.
Information for private plan changes called-in as proposals of national significance is available on the Environmental Protection Authority website.
Private plan changes must be consistent with national planning standards (planning standards). The first set of planning standards established a common structure and form of plans and some standard content, such as definitions. Mandatory directions in the planning standards cannot be amended by a private plan change. Refer to the planning standards webpage for more information.