District Plan Change 56: Enabling Intensification in Residential and Commercial Areas

New Government rules for higher and denser housing need to be incorporated into our District Plan.


About this plan change

The Government passed a law in late 2021 requiring councils to change their planning rules to allow housing up to three storeys high and three homes per section in most residential areas, without requiring council planning permission (resource consent). The legislation introduced ‘medium density residential standards’ that the Council must include in the District Plan (the City’s rulebook for subdivision and development).

In addition, the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) means Council is also required to allow housing of at least six storeys within walking distance of our train stations, the CBD and the Petone commercial area. More housing (also known as intensification) may also be allowed in residential areas such as the suburban centres of Avalon, Eastbourne, Moera, Stokes Valley and Wainuiomata.

These changes legally need to be incorporated into our District Plan as a Plan Change, which is separate from the current review of the entire District Plan.

Council may limit these new rules only in specific circumstances such as identified areas with natural hazards, heritage areas, or sites of significance to Māori. These specific circumstances are known as “qualifying matters”.

The proposed plan change aims to improve housing supply and affordability and means fewer restrictions on development. While the significant parts of the plan change are mandated by the legislation, there are some factors that the public can influence.

Some parts of Proposed Plan Change 56 take immediate legal effect from 18 August 2022. Read the Summary of Immediate Legal Effect Information (PDF 151 KB) which provides guidance for plan users on which parts of the Proposed Plan Change take immediate legal effect.

Current status:  Submissions have now closed for feedback on the decisions requested in the first round of submissions. A hearing by an independent panel will be held in April 2023.

1)  A new High Density Residential zone proposes:

  • Buildings up to six storeys, subject to planning permission, within 1200m from the edge of the Lower Hutt CBD.
  • Buildings up to six storeys, subject to planning permission, 800m from the Petone commercial centre and all train stations
  • Buildings up to six storeys, subject to planning permission, in areas around Avalon and Moera commercial centres
  • Buildings up to four storeys, subject to planning permission, in areas around the commercial shopping centres in Stokes Valley, Wainuiomata and Eastbourne.

2)  New building heights and density are reduced in some areas of the city on sites with specific constraints to building. This means more development is still possible but consent from the Council will be required. Development will be constrained on sites:

  • At risk from natural hazards like flooding, tsunami, and coastal hazards (including climate change and sea level rise) and within 20m of the Wellington fault line
  • With heritage protection - the existing heritage protection in the District Plan will still apply. Six additional residential heritage areas have been identified and the changes propose to limit the scale of future development in these areas
  • Of significance to Māori, including those close to marae and urupā, affected by the changes.

3)  The government-mandated changes mean that the current low-density-zoned areas of Boulcott, Woburn and Lowry Bay will be included in the new intensification rules.

4)  No maximum building height limit in the Lower Hutt CBD and the western part of the Petone commercial area, but most new buildings will continue to be assessed on a case-by case basis through the resource consent process.

5)  Developers will be required to pay financial contributions for infrastructure and reserves, based on the number of dwellings created, not per subdivision.

6)  Introduce minimum landscaping, outlook and façade glazing rules - these were optional government requirements but supported in our public feedback.

People have sent in submissions requesting modifications to the proposed plan change, and a summary of those requests and the full submissions are below.

Submissions closed on 24 November 2022 for giving feedback in support or opposition to the decisions requested.


What do I need to know?

In April 2022 we ran an informal public survey asking for feedback about some of the aspects of the changes that councils and communities can decide on – things like defining walkable distance to train stations, developer contributions for infrastructure and design standards that could be introduced to improve the quality of intensive housing.

We weren’t officially required to seek feedback at that stage but used this information and feedback from Mana Whenua partners to help develop a proposed plan change that aims to reflect the views of residents.

The proposed plan change requires statutory public submissions on the details and a hearing under the Resource Management Act. Initial public submissions and a second round of submissions to support or oppose any initial submissions have now closed.

A  hearing by an independent panel will be held in  April 2023.

The Medium Density Residential Standards are a set of rules that Council must include in the District Plan. These include rules (known as “standards”) on:

  • The number of residential dwellings per site
  • Building height
  • Building height in relation to boundary (also known as a recession plane)
  • The distance between buildings and the property boundaries
  • The amount of the site that can be built on
  • Outdoor living space
  • Outlook space (essentially space outside windows – not utility room windows)
  • Windows on street facing façades of buildings
  • The area of the site required to be landscaped

If a proposed building met these rules, the building would be allowed (planning permission/resource consent not required). However, if a proposed building would not meet one or more of these rules, the building would need Council planning permission (resource consent). Building consent will still be required for any new dwelling.

See details of the Government’s Medium Density Residential Standards, with examples of the types of developments and buildings that could be built without Council planning permission.

The Government’s Medium Density Residential Standards also include objectives and policies that must be included in the District Plan, as well as requirements for subdivisions and notification of resource consent applications. See the full list of the Medium Density Residential Standards.

More information on how Hutt City Council proposes to incorporate the Medium Density Residential Standards (rules) into its district plan will be made available when the Intensification Planning Instrument is notified on 18 August 2022.

The Intensification Planning Instrument includes two residential zones:

  • High Density Residential Activity Area
  • Medium Density Residential Activity Area.

View the proposed locations for these zones

These zones would replace the District Plan’s existing zones:

  • General Residential Activity Area
  • Medium Density Residential Activity Area
  • Special Residential Activity Area
  • Historic Residential Activity Area.

The High Density Residential Activity Area zone would apply to residential areas within 1200 metres of the city centre, 800 metres of the Petone commercial area and 800 metres of train stations, as well as areas adjacent to the suburban commercial centres of Avalon and Moera suburban centres. Six-storey buildings would be allowed in this zone, with Council planning permission (resource consent). However, the Medium Density Residential Standards/rules (not the building height standard) would also apply. This includes rules on the amount of building near property boundaries and the number of dwellings per site and would require outdoor living space and landscaping. If the rules are not met, Council planning permission (resource consent) would be required.

The Medium Density Residential Activity Area zone would be all other areas that are currently in the General Residential Activity Area zone and Medium Density Residential Activity Area zone. These are predominantly in the Eastern Bays, Stokes Valley and Wainuiomata, but also include some areas on the valley floor. All Medium Density Residential Standards/rules would apply in this area, including 11 metres maximum building height (3 storeys). If the rules are followed, then no Council planning permission (resource consent) would be necessary.

For the most part, areas that are currently within the Hill Residential Activity Area zone and the Landscape Protection Activity Area zone won’t be affected by proposed changes to the district plan. The only exception is for areas in Western Hill suburbs that are in a walkable distance of the city centre or train stations (1200 metres and 800 metres, respectively). This includes some areas in Korokoro, Maungaraki, Normandale, Harbour View and Tirohanga.

More information on what the proposed changes will mean for the residential areas of Lower Hutt will be made available when the proposed plan change (IPI) is notified on 18 August 2022.

The proposed change keeps three for the existing commercial zones:

  • Central Commercial
  • Petone Commercial
  • Suburban Mixed Use

The other two zones, Special Commercial and Suburban Commercial, will be deleted and the sites rezoned to Suburban Mixed Use.

The Central Commercial zone would cover the same area as it does now, although the precincts have been removed. All new buildings (except very small ones) will still need Council planning permission (resource consent) and would be assessed against the Central Commercial Design Guide. The main change in this area is that there is no longer a maximum building height limit, and the height of buildings will be assessed on a case-by-case basis in the resource consent process (Council’s planning permission).

The Petone Commercial zone would continue to cover the same area. In Petone Commercial 1 along Jackson Street, heritage controls would continue to apply to most of the area. All new buildings and the demolition of existing buildings would require Council planning permission (resource consent) to protect heritage buildings and make sure the design of new buildings is compatible with the area. Buildings are limited to 2-3 storeys. Outside this area, buildings up to 6 storeys are possible, but Council planning permission (resource consent) would be required for all new buildings.

In the western end of the Petone Commercial area, Petone Commercial 2, there would be no building height limit, but most new buildings would be assessed case-by-case in the Council planning permission process (resource consent), including against the Petone Commercial Design Guide. The existing recession plane and building height rules would stay on sites around Te Puni Urupā to protect its significant cultural value.

The Suburban Mixed Use zone would continue to apply to the centres covered in the current district plan but would be expanded to the former Suburban Commercial and Special Commercial zones. The only change to this zone is building height limits. In most cases building height limits will be consistent with the building height limits in surrounding residential zones, however building height limits of 22m (6 storeys) will apply in the following circumstances:

  • Centres within 1200m walking distance of the city centre, 800m walking distance of Petone commercial areas, and 800m walking distance of railway stations
  • Around the commercial centres of the suburbs of Wainuiomata, Stokes Valley, Eastbourne, Moera, and Avalon

In the rest of the city, commercial areas will allow buildings of 12m (3 storeys).

While Council is required to change its district plan to enable greater intensification, in some circumstances Council is still able to limit building heights and housing density. These circumstances, known as “qualifying matters”, in the Resource Management Act and National Policy Statement on Urban Development.

Qualifying matters include:

  • Areas at significant risk from natural hazards
  • Historic heritage areas
  • Sites of significance to Māori.

Whilst the Government wants more housing overall, it has made it clear that there are limits to this. We can’t increase the amount of housing in areas where there are high risks of natural hazards (like near to streams), nor can we build over an area of significance to Māori, or a heritage area. Therefore, the district plan will not allow as much housing density and building height in these areas, but some building is still acceptable.

The qualifying matters that have been identified for Lower Hutt are:

  • Areas at significant risk from natural hazards
  • Heritage areas
  • Sits of significance to Māori
  • Nationally significant infrastructure
  • Public open space

More information on qualifying matters, including the qualifying matters that have been identified for Lower Hutt, will be available in August for public feedback.

Council can limit the new building height and density requirements in some circumstances. This includes for the protection of heritage. This protection means greater development is still possible, but resource consent will be required.

To limit intensification via the qualifying matter provisions of the legislation, Council is required to have a strong evidence base. An evaluation of Lower Hutt’s historic heritage was recently completed by external heritage experts and the findings have been fed into this plan change.

The district plan change would introduce six new heritage precincts, with restrictions around building heights and density in these precincts. This aims to recognise and protect the heritage values associated with these areas. The table below summarises each of the areas and what the rules mean for future development within these areas.

In addition, the extent of three historic heritage areas that are currently identified in the District Plan would be amended in some cases. However, the existing policies and rules for these areas would still apply after this plan change. This is also the case for individually listed heritage buildings or structures.

The information on this page is also available in a print/download format.

PrecinctIs this a new area or existing?Summary of proposed rules
Residential Heritage Precinct

Six separate areas in Petone, Moera and Wainuiomata. These are new areas.

  • Resource consent would be required for new development that either increases building height or the number of units on a site.
  • The proposed plan change would not introduce any specific rules for:
    • Additions/alterations to existing buildings, or
    • Demolition.
  • The rules of the underlying zone would apply for additions/alterations or demolition.
Jackson Street Heritage Precinct

Applies to areas of Jackson Street generally between Cuba Street and Victoria Street.

This area has been identified in the District Plan as a heritage area since the District Plan first became operative in 2003.

  • The size of this precinct is proposed to be reduced (i.e. properties removed from the area)
  • The proposed plan change does not change the rules for this area.
Riddlers Crescent Heritage Precinct

Riddlers Crescent has been identified in the District Plan as a heritage area since the District Plan first became operative in 2003.

The area is currently identified through the Historic Residential Activity Area.

  • The proposed plan change would rezone the areas to the High Density Residential Activity Area.
  • The area has been identified through the Riddlers Crescent Heritage Precinct (two of the properties in the current heritage precinct would be excluded from the precinct under the plan change, following the findings of the Heritage Inventory Review).
  • The rules are the same as the Operative District Plan - resource consent would be required for new buildings, external alterations, external repair and external modification.
  • No additional rules are proposed for demolition of buildings in the area.
Heretaunga Settlement Heritage Precinct (Patrick Street)

The Patrick Street area has been identified in the District Plan as a heritage area since the District Plan first became operative in 2003.

The area is currently identified through the Historic Residential Activity Area. However, twelve properties in the area are also identified in a separate heritage area in Chapter 14F: Heritage Buildings and Structures.

  • The proposed plan change would rezone these areas to the High Density Residential Activity Area
  • The area has been identified through the Heretaunga Settlement Heritage Precinct in the plan change (five of the properties would be excluded from the precinct, following the findings of the Heritage Inventory Review).
  • The rules are the same as the Operative District Plan - resource consent would be required for new buildings, external alterations, external repair and external modification.
  • In addition, the heritage area in Chapter 14F would be replaced by the Heretaunga Settlement Heritage Precinct. As a result, 23 additional properties will be identified in Chapter 14F, and resource consent would be required for demolition or relocation of buildings on these 23 properties where it was previously permitted.

Council can control building heights and housing density in some circumstances to protect housing from significant risks from natural hazards. This protection means greater development is still possible, but resource consent may be required.

New information means that the Council has been able to clearly identify areas at risk from natural hazards. Natural hazards is a “qualifying matter" in the proposed district plan change. This means that Council has chosen to control development to help to protect buildings from the risk of natural hazards.

These limitations on height and density for new housing and commercial or retail activities in areas of natural hazard risk apply only to areas covered by the new intensification requirements. This means that the proposed natural hazard rules apply to the following zones:

  • Medium Density Residential Activity Area
  • High Density Residential Activity Area
  • Suburban Mixed Use
  • Petone Commercial
  • Central Commercial

The full review of the District Plan will address natural hazard risks more comprehensively across Lower Hutt, and this is expected in late 2023/early 2024 and will include further opportunities for the community to have their say.

Natural Hazard Layer What does this layer show? What does it mean if my property is in this area?
Flood Hazard: Stream Corridor (New) The modelled extent of stream flow during a 1-in-100-year storm event (including sea level rise and increased rainfall)
  • This means you have a stream on your property.
  • Any new development is discouraged in the modelled stream flow.
  • To manage the flood risk, you will need a resource consent to build in this area
Flood Hazard: Overland Flow Path (New) The modelled flow path of flood water (not streams) during a 1-in-100-year storm event (including sea level rise and increased rainfall)
  • To manage the flood risk, you will need a resource consent to build in this area.
Flood Hazard: Inundation Area (New) The modelled area where flooding from a 1-in-100-year storm event is expected to occur (including sea level rise and increased rainfall)
  • To manage the flood risk, you will need to make sure the floor level is above the modelled flood depth if you want to build in this area.
Tsunami: High Coastal Hazard (New) The modelled extent of a 1-in-100-year tsunami event (including sea level rise)
  • The number of dwellings permitted on your property does not change
  • Due to the level of risk, developments of more than two dwellings are discouraged
  • You will need a resource consent to build more than two dwellings on the site.
Tsunami: Medium Coastal Hazard (New) The modelled extent of a 1-in-500-year tsunami event (including sea level rise)
  • The number of dwellings permitted on your property does not change
  • You will need a resource consent to build more than two dwellings on the site.
Tsunami: Low Coastal Hazard (New) The modelled extent of a 1-in1000-year tsunami event (including sea level rise)
  • The Medium Density Residential Standards are applied to allow three dwellings on your site.
  • To manage the tsunami risk, you will need a resource consent to build more than three dwellings on the site.
Coastal Inundation: High Coastal Hazard (New) The modelled extent of coastal flooding from a 1-in-100-year storm event
  • The number of dwellings permitted on your property does not change.
  • Due to the level of risk, developments of more than two dwellings are discouraged.
  • You will need a resource consent to build more than two dwellings on the site.
Coastal Inundation: Medium Coastal Hazard (New) The modelled extent of coastal flooding from a 1-in-100-year storm event (including sea level rise and vertical land movement)
  • The number of dwellings permitted on your property does not change.
  • To manage the risk, you will need a resource consent to build more than two dwellings on the site.
Wellington Fault Hazard (area updated) The mapped area where the Wellington Fault is located.
  • Your property is close to the Wellington Fault.
  • As is currently the case, to make sure new building is at least 20m from the fault, you will need a resource consent for most new buildings.

The District Plan approach to three-water infrastructure (freshwater, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure) would be largely unchanged.

The key components of this approach are as follows:

  • For the residential areas that are affected by the proposed plan change, developments of four or more dwellings would require Council permission, including considering if there is infrastructure to service the proposed buildings (this is currently the case for development of three or more units).
  • Developers contribute to infrastructure costs:
    • For planned infrastructure, developers pay Development Contributions, the details are in the Long Term Plan
    • For unplanned infrastructure necessary for a new development, Financial Contributions, details are in the District Plan
  • To reduce the impacts of heavy rainfall on stormwater infrastructure, rules require new buildings in relevant residential zones to have stormwater retention tanks and a proportion of the site must be permeable surface area. If these standards are not met, Council planning permission (resource consent) is required, and the impacts of the development on stormwater infrastructure must be assessed through the resource consent process.

Timeline

DateStage Related Documents
April 2022 Initial feedback sought from the community. See the survey results
May 2022 Council works with Mana Whenua partners for their advice on the draft proposal and incorporates public feedback  
18 August 2022 Proposed Plan Change released for public submissions until 20 September Public notice
Read the proposed plan change - volume 1
Read the proposed plan change - volume 2 
View the proposed zone maps 
10-24 November 2022 Publicly notify the summary of submissions and invite further submissions either supporting or opposing submissions from the initial round. See "Summary of  Decisions Requested" higher up  on this webpage.
April 2023 Public hearings for submissions in front of an independent panel followed by recommendations to Council of any further changes that should be made.  
No later than 20 August 2023 Council publicly notifies decision and the Plan Change becomes operative.
The Resource Management Act does not provide for appeals within this streamlined process.