Developing Subdivision Objectives and Policies

Section 75(1) of the Act requires that the district plan contain objectives and policies to manage the identified issues. The objectives and policies relating to subdivision should not be too generalised such as to be open to wide interpretation. They should be sufficiently detailed so as to give a clear indication of the district plan's expectations for each given part of the district, including the management of cumulative effects.

The objective and policy framework is particularly important for rural and peri-urban areas, which can contain a diverse mix of landscapes, natural resources, natural hazards, servicing constraints, existing patterns of subdivision and land use activities. If rural areas with quite different characteristics are managed through the same or similar subdivision provisions, such as minimum site sizes, then the district plan should clearly explain why those same provisions apply. Explanations as to why areas are differentiated or managed as a whole should be incorporated into issues or objectives, policies, or explanation of policies or a combination of these. Care is needed to ensure that explanations and reasons do not qualify the actual policy wording, but rather expand on it, to the extent that the intent behind the provisions is clear.

Structure plans will also help in providing for integrated development, clarity of intent and certainty of outcome.

Where subdivision is referred to in a policy and the explanation and reasons for that policy, it should be made clear whether the effects to be managed are envisaged through the zoning of land use (for instance, expected land use densities), or anticipated land use effects which it is considered are best managed through controls on subdivision. Objectives, policies and rules relating to subdivision should preferably be in one place and enable the reader to identify all the issues requiring consideration, or, alternatively, clearly be cross referenced to other relevant plan provisions.

Some plans contain issues, objectives, policies and rules together; others have separate issues, objective/policy and rules chapters. Either approach has its advantages, but in all cases careful consideration is needed to cross-referencing, as subdivision "links" to numerous categories of land use matters in plans.

If you intend to have a separate subdivision section in the plan, and the subdivision objectives and policies relate to process issues only, then there will need to be clear linkages to those other sections of the plan that address the relevant land use considerations, such as residential densities, heritage protection, transportation, natural hazards or infrastructure. Care is required to ensure that where land use issues are covered within the subdivision objectives and policies, the potential for conflicting provisions is avoided, or that critical objectives and policies contained in other parts of the plan are not overlooked when a subdivision application is being assessed.

The district plan should encourage joint subdivision and land use applications, where a land use consent is required for existing or subsequent developments. This means that all the effects associated with the act of subdivision and any land use effects can be assessed at the same time, and there can be certainty about the ability of subsequent purchasers to use the sites created. Subdivisions should be designed having regard to subsequent land use, rather than land use having to fit within an already-established subdivision patterns. In large-scale greenfields subdivisions, zoning and structure plan provisions should already be place.

One approach that could be encouraged through district plan provisions is to require a lower category of consent for subdivision where the land use has already been established (such as for boundary adjustments or similar), the subdivision is to divide only those existing land uses, and there are no significant identified effects arising as a result.