Developing Effective District Plan Provisions

Developing land transport provisions for district plans involves the following stages:

  • gathering information
  • identifying and assessing transportation issues in the district including the influence of land use and growth expectations
  • developing objectives, policies, and rules to address these issues and any additional optional methods;
  • drafting plan provisions that will achieve these objectives and policies.

Throughout this process, consideration should also be given to the nature and extent of consultation required.

Gather the information

Gathering relevant information involves obtaining a clear understanding of the overall land transport environment in a district or region, including roads, railways, public transport networks (services and infrastructure), pedestrian areas, and cycle routes. Identifying key land uses, future trends, transport demands and growth areas is also important.

The transport network is interconnected, and a change in one part of the system may often have unforeseen operational and land use consequences (e.g. extra train services at peak times may cause traffic delays at road crossings down the track, provision of bus lanes on existing arterials may displace existing retail parking). Equally, land use decisions may also have an unintended effect on the operation of the transport network and system.

Consultation is critical to understanding what the community likes and dislikes about a district's land transport system. Consultation needs to be wide, inclusive of transport providers and key agencies, and provide relevant information. Specific information relevant to the development of policy and consultation on land transport includes:

  • copies of the existing district plan, the RPS, the Regional Transport Plan and other strategic documents.
  • guidelines such as the Transport Agency's Planning Policy Manual; there is no equivalent guidance for rail, but overseas rail and land use planning standards may be useful.
  • national and international transport, and urban form policy documents can help inform appropriate local policies such as The Transport Agency 's guidance notes and overseas good practice examples such as UK Planning Policy Guidance 13: Transportation
  • new data and existing research regarding transportation issues in the district and/or region. This may include any corridor studies, plans or strategies
  • any Regional Public Transport Plan, or walking and cycling strategy developed by a region or city/district.

Where information gaps are identified, it may be appropriate to consider commissioning studies and reports on transportation 'hot spots' in the district/region to fill any gaps in current knowledge.

The outcomes of consultation and submissions on earlier RMA plans or other council plans (e.g. Long Term Plan, Annual Plan), the RLTP or the Transport Agency’s National Land Transport Programme are other useful sources of information that provide insight into community views and can help inform an integrated approach.

Identify and assess the issues

Although there is no statutory requirement that district and regional plans contain issues, councils should consider including them as issues help clarify what the associated objectives and policies are trying to achieve. Issues typically form a key component of the structure and focus of RMA plans.

Land transport issues fall into two broad categories:

  • the effects of transportation on the environment
  • the effects of the development and use of land on land transport.

The land transport system, particularly road and rail, may have potential adverse effects on the environment such as:

  • degradation of visual amenity values
  • negative social effects, including community severance
  • land take, including loss of productive land
  • high levels of noise and vibration
  • disruption or destruction of plant and wildlife habitats (e.g. putting a road or rail corridor through a habitat can lead to fragmentation, and create corridors for pests and weeds to spread)
  • modification or destruction of historic heritage
  • pollution of water resources (e.g. stormwater quality and quantity, increased siltation of water bodies due to road construction, disruption of water bodies through the use of culverts and piping which can affect fish migration)
  • discharges into air of dust, exhausts and other contaminants
  • effects on pedestrian and cyclist safety and amenity including availability and safety of walkways, footpaths, cycle lanes, tracks, level and impacts of weather protection (including shade).

Land use activity can impact on aspects of the district's transport system. In particular, land uses can have adverse effects on safety, responsiveness, integration and sustainability of the transport system. This includes:

  • generation of traffic/increased volumes
  • parking, loading and turning impacts
  • light and glare
  • effects on vehicle visibility and safe sightlines
  • implications for accessways and crossings
  • location of hazardous substance storage facilities in relation to the network
  • effects on traffic safety from signage and distractions at intersections
  • reverse sensitivity effects from locating residential activities or other sensitive land uses close to busy transport routes
  • impacts on the sustainability of through routes (e.g. increased pressure to lower speed limits, impacts on travel time, congestion).

In assessing transport issues, the following actions are important:

  • Focus on potential effects including cumulative effects, not just existing effects. Always ask what the future effect will be of a land transport or land use proposal.
  • Consider strategic issues (e.g. congestion, social effects, land transport noise, air quality). Be aware of broader environmental matters such as climate change and the relationship of these to land transport.
  • Consider the role of the district plan in supporting a broader transport plan or strategy (e.g. the content of any regional or district growth strategy).
  • Be aware of changing public attitudes, expectations and perceptions concerning acceptable effects and levels of service in relation to land transport. This is particularly important in relation to effective utilisation of alternatives to private motor vehicles (e.g. public transport).

Responding to issues

Councils need to decide how to best address identified issues through their district plan. Matters that should be considered include:

  • the development of land transport objectives and policies in parallel with other related matters in the plan (e.g. recognition of the relationship that exists between residential and/or business development policies and policies on land transport, given the potential for adverse effects resulting from traffic noise)
  • the relationship between different transport-related policy areas (e.g. utilities, residential amenity and density, transport mode), and other over-arching policy documents such as the RPS and RGS should be clearly evident in the plan.