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Built Environment

Built Environment Banner- Image credit: Chris Williams

Built Environment

How does ‘Built Environment’ fit into the RPS?

FonterraBuilt Environment is a new topic area for the Regional Policy Statement. Development of the built environment has the potential to positively or negatively impact on our ability to sustainably manage natural and physical resources and provide for our social, economic and cultural wellbeing. Mismanaged development can increase natural hazards if undertaken in hazard prone areas, limit access to productive soils and increase reverse sensitivity issues. On the positive side, well planned development can contribute to viable and vibrant towns and strong rural communities.

Territorial authorities manage land use change through district plans. Increasingly however, strategic planning tools are being used in high growth areas to ensure development is sustainable.

The RPS focuses on managing development of the built environment in an integrated and coordinated way that is both sustainable and efficient. This means providing a regional strategic framework about where development can and cannot occur, the staging of development and co-ordination with infrastructure planning. It also means taking a considered approach to matters such as development in the coastal environment.

A large part of the Built Environment chapter methods will be implemented through the Regional Plan review and through district plans. There are a range of new work streams feeding into the Regional Plan review, such as mapping of significant mineral resources, researching setbacks in coastal districts, and identifying regionally significant routes and infrastructure.

Specific focus will be directed to matters such as high pressure for development in Hamilton City, Waipa District, Waikato District, around Lake Taupo, along the Waikato River and in the coastal environment. The increasing potential for natural hazards, the increasing conflict with, and demands for, new infrastructure and the need to use existing infrastructure efficiently will also be managed. Protecting domestic and municipal water supply sources from the adverse effects of land use, and realising the effects of development on high class soils, mineral resources and future energy development sites is also made clear within the RPS.

Key messages

Planned and co-ordinated development: The RPS requires that subdivision, use and development of the built environment occurs in an integrated, affordable, sustainable and planned way. Land use development should not undermine the existing investment in infrastructure such as municipal water supply bodies, transport routes, and electricity transmission lines, and vice versa. Overall, the built environment should enable positive environmental, social, cultural and economic outcomes now, and in the future.

The RPS also outlines the desire to promote walking, cycling and public transport in urban areas. Therefore, transport links, both within the area of new urban development, and to neighbouring areas, will need to be improved or at least protected.

It recognises the historical, cultural and social importance of marae and papakainga and provides for their ongoing use and development as part of the built environment.

Growth strategies: The future spatial land use pattern should be understood sufficiently to inform future investment, according to the RPS. It recognises the agreed settlement pattern identified in various growth strategies that have been developed in the region in recent years, such as Future Proof (a combined growth strategy for the Hamilton City, Waikato District and Waipa District area). It seeks that councils include provisions relating to relevant growth strategies into district plans, and supports a strategic approach to planning our built environments.

Working with others: Where development planning mechanisms (such as structure plans and town plans) are produced, territorial authorities should ensure that Waikato Regional Council, neighbouring regional and territorial authorities, infrastructure providers, health authorities, tangata whenua, industry organisations and affected land owners are provided the opportunity to have meaningful involvement in development planning. A co-ordinated and integrated approach across regional and district boundaries and between agencies will be expected. Waikato Regional Council will work with a range of stakeholders to ensure that development does not unnecessarily prevent likely future infrastructure changes and upgrades.

Planning for development in the coastal environment: The coastal environment has a range of values such as landscape, seascape and recreational opportunities. However, these create demand for development and can subsequently compromise the very values that attract people. The coastal environment often has sensitive and rare indigenous ecosystems, and coastal erosion and flooding risks are likely to increase in future with climate change. Consequently, correct management of the coastal environment is imperative. The RPS requires that development of the built environment in the coastal environment occurs in a way that protects coastal natural character, outstanding features, public access, indigenous biodiversity, natural physical processes, amenity and the natural hazard mitigation functions of the coast.

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Key contact

Greg Morton, Team Leader for Science and Strategy (Policy Implementation).


“Having the Future Proof settlement pattern embedded in the Regional Policy Statement gave us the certainty we needed to invest in the $2.2 billion Waikato Expressway investment as well as the other investments we are awaking in passenger transport, walking and cycling and local road networks. It also sets a clear path for us to plan for future investments such as Hamilton Southern Links.” Robert Brodnax (Regional Manager Planning and Investment, New Zealand Transport Agency).