Planning for successful cities: A discussion document on a proposed National Policy Statement on Urban Development

Ministry for the Environment New Zealand
Ministry for the Environment
Publication date:

The Government is consulting on a proposal to create a new National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD). This discussion document sets out the policy proposals, sample text for how they might be reflected in a national policy statement, and the rationale behind them.


The success of our cities affects New Zealand’s overall economic, social, cultural and environmental performance. As New Zealand moves to a more sustainable, productive and inclusive economy, cities will play an increasingly important role by hosting a large share of the nation’s labour market activity, business growth and connections with other countries.

Our cities need to offer affordability, access and quality, while functioning within environmental limits. To do so, they need to be able to adapt and respond to the diverse and changing needs of all people, whānau, communities and future generations.

Our cities are under pressure and are not offering the benefits we want, because:

  • urban land markets do not enable housing development to keep up with growth and ensure land is affordable
  • transport systems are poorly integrated with land use, and lack high-quality options to improve access to jobs, and reduce car dependency.

The Government is looking at ways to make our urban markets perform better by making room for growth, making sure growth pays for itself, investing in transport to drive more efficient and liveable urban forms, and ensuring healthy and active travel is more attractive.

We need to remove unnecessary restrictions on development, to allow growth ‘up’ (eg, higher-density housing near existing services and infrastructure) and ‘out’ (eg, well-connected houses in greenfield areas with good infrastructure). This will require a change to the practice and culture of how land use is regulated.

Allowing for growth must not be at the expense of well-functioning, vibrant urban and natural environments. The Government wants to maximise the benefits of good urban growth, while minimising the costs and the drawbacks. The Government is seeking to deliver high-quality, liveable urban environments that foster the well-being of people and the natural environment.

While a combination of factors over decades and multiple local and central government cycles have come together to put pressure on cities, the planning system has also contributed to this. It has struggled to respond to growth pressures and timely provision of infrastructure. It has relied on overly constraining rules, zoning and overlays to manage environmental effects. We need an urban development system that does not just react to and manage growth, but actively facilitates the kind of urban growth that maximises prosperity and well-being.

Overview of the proposed NPS-UD

The NPS-UD focuses on the role of the planning system in enabling growth and regulating land use in urban areas. It aims to enable growth by requiring councils to provide development capacity to meet the diverse demands of communities, address unnecessary regulatory constraints, and encourage quality urban environments. It will ensure growth is strategically planned and leads to well-functioning cities that contribute positively to people’s well-being.

The NPS-UD will replace the National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity 2016 (NPS-UDC 2016). Although the NPS-UDC has been an important first step towards better urban planning, we consider that it is not sufficient to achieve the outcomes we are seeking. The new NPS-UD will build on many of the existing requirements for greater development capacity, but will broaden its focus and add significant new content.

The NPS-UD contains objectives and policies in four key areas:

  • Future Development Strategy – requires councils to carry out long-term planning to accommodate growth and ensure well-functioning cities.
  • Making room for growth in RMA plans – requires councils to allow for growth ‘up’ and ‘out’ in a way that contributes to a quality urban environment, and to ensure their rules do not unnecessarily constrain growth.
  • Evidence for good decision-making – requires councils to develop, monitor and maintain an evidence base about demand, supply and prices for housing and land, to inform their planning decisions.
  • Processes for engaging on planning – ensures council planning is aligned and coordinated across urban areas, and issues of concern to iwi and hapū are taken into account. ...

August 2019

Last updated: 2019-08-22