Have your say on government’s housing intensification changes in Lower Hutt

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Published: 16 March 2022

Public consultation will commence in late March on parts of Lower Hutt’s District Plan affected by new legislation requiring councils to allow higher and denser housing construction.

Parliament passed the Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters Amendment Act late last year, enabling housing up to three storeys high in most residential areas.

The changes also require Council to enable housing of at least six storeys in parts of our city that are within walking distance of train stations, the CBD and the Petone commercial area. Higher than three storey buildings will also be enabled in residential areas around Avalon, Eastbourne, Moera, Stokes Valley and Wainuiomata suburban commercial centres.

Council opposed the legislation when it was before Parliament, contending that taking a blanket approach to housing intensification - without considering access to transport hubs, off-street car parking, and basic amenities - would have severe unintended consequences for our city and our environment.

This legislation forces a change to Council’s work on the District Plan review that was already underway. To try and ensure the best opportunity for residents to have their say, on 28 February, Council voted to prioritise making the necessary changes to the District Plan to include these new requirements, particularly in the residential and commercial chapters.

This will enable Hutt City Council to implement the government’s intensification requirements by August 2022 as required in the legislation. As a result, the rest of the District Plan will be reviewed more slowly than previously planned.

Mayor Campbell Barry says it’s frustrating that Council’s hands have been tied by the Government to implementing the change.

"Having this legislation imposed on us has unravelled the good progress we had been making on a full District Plan Review. It not only undermines that progress but also undoes the work we had done to increase housing intensification in areas where it makes sense to - we have gone from sensible housing intensification to something that is simply nonsensical.

"However, while the new legislation means councils can place fewer restrictions on housing intensification, there are still factors the public can influence as part of this consultation," says Mayor Barry.

Cr Simon Edwards, Chair of the District Plan Review Subcommittee, also encourages the public to make their voice heard through consultation.

"We’re keen to hear how our District Plan can deliver the best possible outcomes for our communities and environment while also ensuring we comply with our legislative requirements aimed at accelerating the supply of new housing," said Cr Edwards.

Cr Edwards said Council’s Plan Change 43 agreed in 2019 had resulted in a surge of infill housing to meet the growing need for housing in Lower Hutt.

"The number of dwelling consents has doubled - from 550 in 2020 to 1,142 in 2021 - and we expect this to grow further.

"It’s frustrating that Government has imposed a one-size-fits-all mandate on all councils of our size, even though we have already made great strides in increasing housing density in areas that can support it," said Cr Edwards.

"Some may feel there is little point in giving feedback on Government-mandated changes and while I understand that view, there are some aspects up for discussion. For example, we want help defining what is considered a "walkable" distance from a train station, and there may be aspects of the building regulations that some want to make even more permissive," he said.

Public consultation on the changes will open in late March and run until the end of April. Council’s District Plan Review Subcommittee will consider any further changes following consultation, and a proposed change to affected parts of the District Plan will then be released for statutory public consultation in August.

The full review of the rest of the District Plan will continue following completion of the intensification plan change.