Planning Maps

The maps associated with regional or district plans will, along with rules and definitions, be amongst the most commonly referred to parts of the plan. As with rule text, accuracy in what maps portray and how they portray it is very important - they indicate where certain plan provisions will apply and in some cases actually form part of a plan rule. Feedback from Second Generation Plan Workshops held in nine centres around New Zealand in 2005 found that many practitioners preferred planning map sets that:

  • clearly showed section and lot boundaries for properties (all lot boundaries were shown and at a scale where they were easily distinguishable from neighbouring lots)

  • provided information that assisted in the location of individual properties or features, (key land marks, rivers and streams, road names, key street numbers or similar) for example see Tauranga Planning Map)

  • showed detail without being overly cluttered (for example, patterns could be effective, but became distracting if every zone used them and additional information was then overlaid)

  • used aerial photographs to provide additional information relating to certain sites (ecological areas or areas prone to coastal erosion for example)

  • have a fold-out key that can remain visible when maps are opened

  • have 'key maps ' (small maps or diagrams that show how the map being viewed relates to surrounding maps or which part of the region or district is covered, or both)

  • have 'index maps ' that indicate which maps cover which parts of the district or region (see for example Waitakere).

Where plans are put on-line, having an electronic index map that hyperlinks to the appropriate planning map was found to be particularly useful for plan users (see Palmerton North City Council for example). Other features that proved particularly useful are:

  • 'mouse-overs ' (the ability to query selected features by running the mouse point over them, which brings up a small text box explaining what the feature of the object is). Some plans also have a variation of this - hyperlinks back to the text sections of the plan (to, for example, to schedules of significant trees or designations)

  • the ability to move to adjacent maps by clicking on arrows rather than having to close the map and open another (for example the Matamata-Piako District Plan has this feature).

Map colours

There are no regulations or specific standards that stipulate that colour has to be used on planning maps, or what colours are to be used. Nevertheless it is important to the practical considerations of using colour:

  • colour maps cost more to produce and reproduce

  • subtle shades such as pastels do not contrast well on black-and-white photocopiers or printers

  • up to 14% of the New Zealand population suffers some degree of colour blindness (either red-green or blue-yellow). Subtle shades and tones can cause difficulties for these readers.

To assist in making maps accessible to readers:

  • select colours with care, avoiding use of pastel shades of red and green (or blue and yellow) in circumstances where many small areas of these colours would otherwise adjoin each other (see the Tauranga Planning Map extract for example)

  • consider using supplementary labelling or patterns for zones or management areas; this can assist those with colour blindness or overcome some limitations of photocopiers or printers (for example the Waitakere City Council District Plan (PDF 780KB)).

Map content

The content of planning maps will vary according to their purpose and the existence (or otherwise) of supplementary maps that may provide more detailed information. Ideally, planning maps should show:

  • unique map identification number for citing in rules etc (eg, Map B16)

  • an indication as to when the map was last drawn (so plan readers can check if their copy is the most up-to-date version)

  • north direction

  • scales (numeric ratio and ruler format, noting that standardising on a few scales across all maps is preferable to each map having a different scale)

  • clearly defined cadastre

  • names of key features such as roads, surface water bodies, and landmarks

  • regional and district boundaries (with the name of the neighbouring local authority as appropriate)

  • map key (preferably in fold-out form, but otherwise at the front of the map set)

  • identification as to what the surrounding map numbers are (either through the next map number being located alongside corresponding frame of the map being looked at, or through the use of a small key map)

  • planning information for which the map was prepared (zoning, designations, policy area boundaries, hazard areas, significant sites and the like)

  • an indication as to where more detailed maps can be found (if used).

In addition it is common for map sets to have an index of roads and key features at the back of the map set that lists the name of the road and features alphabetically and the relevant map number and position on the map (such as by way of coordinates). For example:




Grinch Grove



Grumpy Road



Grunge River 






Mount Miserly


B3, B4

Poverty Park



Wretched River



Woeful Wetlands 




Bling Boulevard 

Map A1


Dough Drive

Map B9


Moni Stream 

Map A1


Rollinginit Road

Map A3


Splurge Avenue 

Map C7


Treasure Terrace 

Map C8


Map scale

Map scales will vary according to the level of detail that needs to be shown on maps but may also be dictated by the base data used to produce the maps.

Where local authorities have the ability to choose their maps scales, a common key determinant of what scale to use will be lot or section size and the type of information that is to be shown on the smallest lot or section. If a small section has some form of boundary running through it (an edge of a hazard area or riparian margin setback for example) the scale should be sufficient to indicate clearly where that boundary lies. Generally, larger-scale maps can be used in rural areas, while smaller-scale maps should be used for urban areas or other situations where there is fine detail. Based on an evaluation of planning maps around New Zealand, and the detail shown on them, the following scales or ranges are suggested:

District plans

  • index maps: A scale that allows the whole district or city to be shown on one map (in the range 1:50,000 to 1: 500,000 for example)

  • rural areas, or other areas of predominantly large lot or section sizes: 1:10,000 to 1:25,000 (noting that supplementary diagrams or maps can be used if a small area needs to be shown in more detail)

  • urban areas: 1:5,000 to 1:10,000

  • roading hierarchies (an overview map of sufficient scale to show the whole city or district, and possible smaller-scale supplementary maps, such as 1:10,000, for areas where the roading hierarchy shown is more dense)

  • hazard maps, and policy areas: 1:1,500 to 1:5,000 (it is also useful to show the actual dimensions of these areas on the map itself)

  • fine-detail maps (for example those for inner city designations) 1:1,500 to 1:5,000 (it is also useful to show the actual dimensions of features such as designations on the map itself).

Regional plans

  • index maps: A scale that allows the whole district or city to be shown on one map (in the range 1:100,000, to 1:1,500,000 dependent on the size of the district or region for example)

  • maps pertaining to resources in urban areas: 1:20,000

  • maps pertaining to resources in rural areas: 1:25,000 to 1:200,000 depending on the type and size of resource being mapped

  • hazard maps around urban areas: 1:5,000

  • significant sites, or maps showing greater detail: 1:5,000 to 1:25,000

  • coastal maps (away from urban areas) 1:50,000 to 1:250,000

  • coastal maps (adjacent to urban areas) 1:50,000 to 1:100,000

  • coastal maps (around port facilities) 1:5,000 to 1:10,000.

Map sheet size

As with map colours, there is no mandatory map size in New Zealand. Most planning maps have standardised on A3-sized sheets of paper, but a number of plans use A4 paper instead. Very few plans now use maps sheets larger than A3.

A3 maps:

  • are the largest size that many common photocopiers /printers can cope with

  • can be accommodated on most office desks when open

  • allow for helpful features such as key maps to be incorporated on each page without greatly reducing the area of the principal map

  • provide better contextual information than A4 maps by being able to show larger areas of the district or region on one map (note that Western Bay of Plenty District Council get around this through setting maps up so they run across pages, so as to present information in a similar way a single A3 sheet would).

A4 maps:

  • are more compact than A3 maps so they can be accommodated more readily on a bookshelf or in a briefcase

  • are the same size as the paper used for the text for most plans so can be attached or integrated into the text document if desired

  • fit virtually all photocopiers, printers, computer scanners, and fax machines.

  • their size limits the ability to incorporate user-friendly features such as key-maps on the same page as the principal map.

Planning maps on-line

Maps can be presented on-line in a variety of formats including portable document format (pdf), html, or xml. It is suggested that maps be in php, jpg, or gif formats or embedded into html format where possible and incorporate features such as:

  • a legend, identified and remaining visible on each individual map

  • map scales that remain visible and automatically adjust when zooming in and out

  • street names and feature names remain legible or can be zoomed in on

  • individual maps able to be identified by clicking on an 'index ' or 'master ' map (for example see the Dunedin City Plan)

  • icons and symbols on the planning maps hyperlink to relevant plan schedules or tables

  • printer-friendly options

  • an electronic index that hyperlinks to features and places on the map or similar search function.

Relevant case law

Wellington City Council v Fremont Construction Company [1998] DC CRN7085015126: A description in the plan of 'a grouping of 19 trees ' and a tree symbol on the planning maps was found to be insufficient detail to protect trees as listed trees in the plan. Plan needed to specify the trees listed and their location with greater precision.

RE Auckland City Council [2006] A026/06 Application by Auckland City Council under s292 (Remedying defects in plans) to correct an error in a planning map that assigned an incorrect zoning. A number of other s292 applications (for example Re An Application by Wellington City Council [2004] W07/04) cover a similar situations.

Hororata Concerned Citizens v Canterbury Gliding Club Inc. [2004] C185/04 In this case the Court considered (amongst other matters) that a failure to show a designation on a planning map was not 'fatal ' to the designation (as it was still identified in the plan by way of a schedule) but constituted an error that should be amended.