Designation versus Resource Consent and Plan Changes

Designations generally provide for longer-term and more flexible protection than a resource consent or plan change. A designation cannot be altered by anyone else, unlike provisions of a plan (anyone is able to apply for a private plan change). The outline plan process also allows for greater flexibility into the future than a granted resource consent does by allowing some of the details of the project or works to be left to this stage. 

Designations are also a way of providing for projects or works that might be difficult to comprehensively provide for in a district plan or through the resource consent process. Many large scale activities, network utilities or public works may be contrary to the objectives and policies of the plan, or may not comply with the tests of s104D relating to resource consents for non-complying activities. 

In addition, decisions on designations and outline plans are made by the requiring authority (except in the case of a notice of requirement lodged with the EPA or one which is directly referred to the Environment Court for a decision), rather than the territorial authority (as is the case for plan changes and resource consents). This has the advantage of providing long-term certainty for requiring authorities.  

Designations can be used to: 

  • provide long-term land protection and certainty for large capital works and infrastructure type projects 
  • identify and protect land in the district plan that is required for a project or work 
  • provide for the development and operation of projects or works that occur in multiple zones or across several districts, such as high voltage power lines or state highways 
  • provide certainty and continuity for network type projects such as roads or transmission lines 
  • protect designated land from uses incompatible with the purpose of the designation 
  • provide a basis for the subsequent acquisition of land needed for the works (including compulsory acquisition). 

Designations override all provisions of the district plan in order to provide for works, projects and network operations.

This recognises the fact that they: 

  • are often essential services including public works or infrastructure within national or regional networks 
  • are often limited to specific sites 
  • can have more than minor effects and are frequently not provided for by plan provisions 
  • may have impacts on land that may warrant and involve compensation or property acquisition under the Public Works Act 1981 processes. 

The plan change process can also be used to authorise the project or work. However, the Schedule 1 plan change process is lengthier, with greater uncertainty as to the final result. There would always be a risk of subsequent plan changes as anyone can apply for a plan change, therefore providing a less reliable outcome for the requiring authority.