7. Rural Council Plans

Rural council plans typically have a low number of urban design provisions. Only one of the plans assessed included provisions that addressed over half of the sub-criteria. The other rural council plans ranged from between 36 per cent and 41 per cent of the sub-criteria. For all the rural council plans assessed, less than 10 per cent of the sub-criteria were addressed to a high extent.

These results are not surprising given the relatively small size of the towns these plans cover and the reduced level of development pressure facing these areas, compared with their metropolitan or provincial counterparts.

The sub-criteria addressed by all the rural plans were:

  • amenity: provisions relating to amenity
  • choice: variety of maximum building heights
  • commerce: mixed-use opportunities, design controls to enhance shopping/living experiences
  • custodianship: consideration of residential buildings to the street, mitigate hazards
  • heritage: respond to heritage values.

Urban design sub-criteria not dealt with by any of the rural council plans were:

  • choice: allowing increasing density with open space
  • collaboration: collaborative approach to structure plans, involve communities in high-interest developments
  • custodianship: renewable energy, water-saving devices, design to improve infrastructure performance
  • heritage: level of protection of heritage
  • open space: open space and stormwater integration, clear private–public boundaries
  • urban growth management: structure plans.

7.1  Case study: Rangitikei District Plan

Rangitikei District is a predominately rural community of just over 4500 square kilometres. The key driver of Rangitikei’s economy is the farming sector. The district is experiencing limited urban development pressure. In fact, Census figures show the population is declining – from 15,102 in 2001 to 14,712 in 2006.

The Rangitikei District Plan was made operative in 1999 and updated with plan changes in 2007. None of these plan changes have dealt with urban design issues.

The Plan deals with some aspects of urban design, with a focus on heritage, amenity and hazards. These are all matters councils are required to address under the RMA. Heritage and amenity are included as Part II matters. Avoiding and mitigating natural hazards is one of the functions of a territorial authority under section 31 of the RMA. As such, you would expect consideration to be given to these statutorily imposed urban design issues, even in an area experiencing little pressure in urban growth.

The Plan includes provisions that recognise and protect a wide variety of the District’s heritage values. These include buildings and features, marae, areas of significance to Māori, and notable trees. Non-regulatory incentives for heritage protection are also covered in the Plan. Amenity provisions focus particularly on maintaining the amenity of residential properties and minimising the nuisance of non-residential activities. Controls include noise, daylight setbacks for buildings and screening from residential boundaries. There is also a large focus in the Plan on avoiding and mitigating the adverse effects of hazards, particularly natural hazards.

Urban design sub-criteria that the Plan does not currently deal with, or deals with in a limited way, include:

  • rules to support existing policies that define the geographic extent of settlements and promote consolidation
  • connectivity
  • open space
  • collaboration issues
  • efficient use of energy or other resources
  • large format retail developments
  • increasing densities in exchange for provision of open space
  • promotion of a sense of place
  • encouraging people to become more physically active.