Plan Content: Issues, Objectives, Policies and Rules

Incorporation of issues, methods, explanations, reasons and environmental results expected is at the discretion of each local authority. Local authorities have a wide scope to decide what policy framework elements they will place in their regional or district plans. Sections 67 and 75 require plans to contain the following three items:

  • objectives
  • policies to implement the objectives
  • rules (if any) to implement the policies.

A focus on these three items aims to make plans shorter, less complex, and easier to read. It also reflects the reality that most users, including the Environment Court, often refer to little more than the objectives, policies and rules of a plan when making decisions on resource consents. If issues are to be contained in plans they have the benefit of providing:

  • a means to enable clear linkages to matters contained in other strategic or higher-level documents (Long Term Plans, growth strategies, and regional policies statements) that do not sit within the regional or district plan
  • the context to the plan provisions that followed
  • a logical starting point or heading around which related objectives and policies could be grouped.

While making plans longer, the inclusion of methods (other than rules) may make other ways of meeting objectives and policies of the plan more obvious. A number of local authority practitioners have found that many methods (other than rules) in their plans were referred to infrequently while other methods were not used at all (apparently due to lack of support, the cost to implement them, or time constraints).

Methods could be contained in documents other than the plan itself, and simply referred to by way of an explanatory note (underneath the relevant policy, for example). Reference documents that could then contain the methods (other than rules) may include:

  • section 32 evaluation reports (which must examine whether the provisions, including methods, are the most appropriate way to achieve the objectives - 32(1)(b))
  • external 'guides to the plan '
  • codes of practice
  • urban design strategies
  • Regional Land Transport Management Strategies
  • Long Term Plans
  • Annual Plans.

To a lesser extent, reserve management plans and asset management plans could also contain methods that are applicable to meeting the objectives and policies of a regional or district plan.