Specified Development Project
There’s a new pathway for complex urban development projects in New Zealand.
Key information about the Urban Development Act 2020
The Urban Development Act, alongside the Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities Act 2019, sets up a framework for transformational urban development to contribute to sustainable, inclusive and thriving communities.
The Urban Development Act 2020(external link) (the Act) offers a new way of planning and funding complex or challenging urban development through the Specified Development Project process.
The Act empowers Kāinga Ora to initiate, facilitate and undertake transformational, complex urban development that contribute to sustainable, inclusive and thriving communities. Kāinga Ora may use the Act for some of its own complex or challenging projects.
Some complex urban development projects being undertaken by parties other than Kāinga Ora (for example, communities, developers, iwi/rōpū Māori and other land owners) may be able to use the processes in the Act. In these cases, Kāinga Ora may take a facilitation or partnership role with the external party or parties.
To read the legislation or to find out more about the Act, visit the Ministry Of Housing and Urban Development(external link) website. If you wish to seek advice about the Urban Development Act, or discuss the possible selection of a project for assessment, you can email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is a Specified Development Project?
The Act gives Kāinga Ora the ability to lead or facilitate complex urban development projects through a Specified Development Project (SDP).
An SDP is a defined area or areas with stated development objectives and a defined governance body (the three ‘key features’).
Once established, each SDP is subject to a two-stage process to complete a development plan to give effect to the objectives in the project area. The process of preparing and implementing the development plan makes use of the powers contained in the Act, including the ability to change regional and local planning instruments and utilise funding tools to deliver infrastructure.
The value of the SDP process is that it brings together multiple and otherwise separate processes required for urban development and enables them to be accessed through a single, integrated process - without losing important checks and balances. This results in the planning, infrastructure and funding for a project being agreed up front, providing greater certainty and coordination for project implementation and delivery.
The role of Kāinga Ora in selecting and assessing a proposal for a possible SDP
The Act sets out a rigorous process to be completed before the delivery of an SDP can begin. This means that projects can be shaped by local needs and aspirations, and the benefits of urban development are balanced against environmental, cultural and heritage considerations.
The process includes early engagement with Māori and key stakeholders, full public consultation on the draft development plan and the establishment of an independent hearing panel (among other things). The obligations of Kāinga Ora, with respect to Māori when it comes to urban development, can be more fully understood by reading the Act in conjunction with the Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities Act 2019(external link).
An urban development project can be selected for a project assessment (the first significant stage of the process) by either Kāinga Ora or by the responsible government Ministers (the Minister who is responsible for the Act and the Minister of Finance).
While the Urban Development Act is prescriptive in process following project selection, it does not provide explicit guidance for the project selection decision. In terms of selection, Kāinga Ora is under no obligation to select a project for assessment, unless it has been referred by the joint Ministers (Housing and Finance). Kāinga Ora will specifically be looking for complex projects that are unable or unlikely to come forward for optimal development under existing processes. This may be because of such things as fragmented land parcels, multiple landowners, and/or specific planning, funding or infrastructure challenges.
In addition, Kāinga Ora will have particular regard to how an SDP proposal aligns with the purpose and principles in the Act and its operating principles established in the Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities Act 2019 and, in future, the Government Policy Statement on Housing & Urban Development.
Yes, Kāinga Ora will consider SDP proposals when they are submitted.
The establishment of an SDP requires significant investment both from Kāinga Ora and any other organisation proposing a project for assessment as an SDP. Therefore, it is important that the benefits to a project by going through the SDP process would significantly outweigh any costs incurred.
If you wish to seek advice about the Urban Development Act, or discuss the possible selection of a project for assessment, you can email the team at email@example.com Our representative will then contact you to have a discussion about your proposal, and why it may or may not benefit from the SDP process.
Based on initial discussions, should Kāinga Ora decide that the proposal may benefit from assessment as a potential SDP, we will provide you with specific advice regarding the contents of a proposal document to be considered for project selection.
In future, Kāinga Ora may be able to provide more specific guidance on the sorts of projects it would be keen to facilitate or partner on.
Once a project has been selected for a project assessment by either Kāinga Ora, or by government Ministers responsible for the Act, Kāinga Ora will assess the project’s feasibility and identify proposed key features for the project. Key features include the proposed project objectives, project area and a project governance body for the project.
To help assess the feasibility of a project, Kāinga Ora is required to identify the constraints and opportunities that may influence the key features, and the design or the costs of the project. The matters to be identified are:
- any land that may be protected from development
- nationally significant infrastructure
- any land subject to a conservation interest, part of a coastal marine area or a local Act
- any reserve land owned by the Crown, former Māori land and Right of First Refusal land
- Treaty settlement obligations, participation arrangements and Māori planning documents
- information that local authorities hold on natural hazards or contaminated land within the proposed area
- archaeological and historic heritage value of the land
- the local authority’s urban growth plans and other planning instruments
- funding options for infrastructure
Kāinga Ora must also identify:
- the existing planning instruments and Māori planning documents that apply to the proposed project area; and
- any publicly available reports on climate change matters, prepared in accordance with the Climate Change Response Act 2002 or New Zealand’s obligations under an international treaty, that are relevant to the proposed project area.
Kāinga Ora will engage with Māori and key stakeholders when undertaking a project assessment. Kāinga Ora will also seek expressions of interest from Māori entities in developing any land within the proposed project area in which they have an interest.
Once Kāinga Ora has developed the proposed key features, it must publicly notify these and invite the public to give feedback.
In addition to the above, Kāinga Ora will consider all of the following matters when assessing any proposal:
- How will the proposal’s objectives contribute towards sustainable, inclusive and thriving communities?
- Is urban development in the proposed location for the project consistent with national, regional and district plans/spatial plans?
- Does the proposed location for the project include any protected land (refer s17(2) and (4) of the Act) and, if so, what (if anything) is proposed in relation to that land?
- Kāinga Ora will need to check the status of the land that may be subject to right of first refusal and any potential implications for the project.
- What governance structure is proposed for the project and what is the level of experience of these individuals?
After the public notification of the proposed key features has concluded, Kāinga Ora must provide the relevant territorial authority with a copy of the draft project assessment report should this recommend establishment and invite them to indicate their support.
After the public notification of the proposed key features has concluded, Kāinga Ora must provide the responsible government Ministers with a project assessment report that contains a recommendation on whether the Ministers should establish the project as an SDP. The responsible government Ministers will then make a decision to formally establish the project as an SDP. The Act provides a set of criteria that Ministers must consider when deciding whether or not to establish an SDP. This includes:
- Being satisfied the key features are appropriate
- Considering whether the engagement undertaken so far was appropriate, and
- Being satisfied that the project is either supported by the relevant territorial authorities or that it is in the national interest.
If the responsible government Ministers decide to proceed to establish an SDP, it will be established through an Order in Council and notified in the New Zealand Gazette.
Once an SDP has been established, Kāinga Ora must prepare a draft development plan.
The purpose of a development plan is to detail:
- what the development will look like
- how the development will be delivered
- how any of the functions and powers that are able to be exercised for an SDP are intended to be used including those related to infrastructure delivery and funding mechanisms
- any provisions that modify existing RMA plans and regional policy statements.
Kāinga Ora must also prepare an evaluation report to accompany the draft development plan. The evaluation report must set out any proposals that would change planning instruments otherwise applying in the project area, environmental matters and details about the proposed infrastructure for an SDP.
Kāinga Ora must satisfy a number of preconditions prescribed in the Act before it can publicly notify the draft development plan and evaluation report. Once these preconditions have been satisfied, the public notice must set out where the draft development plan and evaluation report can be accessed, and the date by which submissions on the draft development plan must be received.
Submissions on the draft development plan are heard by an Independent Hearings Panel (IHP) consisting of at least three members, including a current or former Environment Court Judge. The Act provides flexibility around the IHP process to allow a range of mechanisms and processes to be tailored to the project in question. The IHP can also hold conferences of experts and alternative dispute resolution processes, commission reports and request evidence and information from Kāinga Ora.
Once the submission period has closed, Kāinga Ora must prepare a report to the IHP that considers the submissions and makes recommendations in response to the same. The IHP has nine months from the date the submission period closes to make its recommendations to the Minister responsible for the Act in respect of the draft development plan.
The IHP can recommend to the responsible Minister that the draft development plan is approved in full, approved with specific amendments, or rejected in full.
Any development plan that has been approved by the responsible Minister must be notified in the New Zealand Gazette. This notice will state the day on which the development plan becomes operative. Any person who made a written submission on the draft development plan can appeal to the High Court on a question of law relating to the development plan’s approval, with the final appeal court being the Court of Appeal.
Once the development plan becomes operative, Kāinga Ora and its partners can access the development powers for the SDP as set out in the development plan, and undertake the development.
Page updated: 22 July 2021