There’s a new pathway for complex urban development projects in New Zealand.

Building vibrant urban communities

Parliament has enacted the Urban Development Act 2020, offering a new way of planning and consenting integrated urban development through the Specified Development Project (SDP) process.

This means anyone seeking to undertake complex urban development – for example, communities, developers, Māori and other landowners – can consider this option for their projects.

These pages provide an introduction to this new option, and how Kāinga Ora can help you decide whether this new pathway might be right for your development.

Please note though that in most cases, your local council is still likely to be your first port of call when considering ways to promote urban development in an area.

Working with Kāinga Ora to establish an SDP requires an assessment of specific criteria, and involves a rigorous process. However, once established, an SDP can help streamline the delivery of urban development. An SDP could be delivered by Kāinga Ora in partnership with a Crown agency or third parties.

Kāinga Ora is already leading a number of large-scale urban developments, and these will continue under existing frameworks. SDPs may be used for existing  projects or future development.

What is a Specified Development Project (SDP)

The Urban Development Act 2020 (the Act) gives Kāinga Ora the ability to facilitate growth through a new type of urban development project known as a Specified Development Project.

SDPs are able to deliver improved urban development outcomes, including a mix of housing types, transport connections, employment and business opportunities, key infrastructure, community facilities, and green spaces. They can be used to progress the kinds of projects that have historically struggled due to barriers like fragmented land parcels, uncoordinated decision-making processes, and poor and aging infrastructure.

The value of the SDP process is that it brings together multiple, disconnected processes required for urban development and enables them to be accessed through a single, more streamlined process - without losing important checks and balances. This results in the planning, infrastructure and funding for a project being agreed up front, providing greater certainty and coordination for developers and investors.

The Act sets out a rigorous process that must be completed before the delivery of an SDP can begin. This will mean that projects can be shaped by local needs and aspirations, and the benefits of urban development are balanced against environmental, cultural and heritage considerations.

Key features of this process include early engagement with Māori and key stakeholders, and full public consultation on the draft development plan. The obligations of Kāinga Ora with respect to Māori when it comes to urban development can be more fully understood by reading the Act in conjunction with the Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities Act 2019.

How do I submit a proposal for a Specified Development Project

An urban development project can be selected for a project assessment by either Kāinga Ora or by the responsible government Ministers (the Minister who is responsible for the Act and the Minister of Finance). If you want to submit or discuss a proposal for a SDP, you will need to complete the SDP proposal form and email it to:

SDP proposal form [PDF, 583 KB]

Staff will then contact you to have a discussion about your proposed SDP, its objectives and how it may work in practice. If it turns out an SDP is not the right way for you to achieve your development goals, staff can also provide you with information on other development tools that may be available.

What happens after the project has been selected for assessment?

Once a project has been selected for a project assessment by either Kāinga Ora, or by government Ministers responsible for the Act, Kāinga Ora will assess the project’s feasibility and identify the proposed Key Features for the project.  The Key Features include the proposed project objectives, project area and a project governance body for the project.

To help assess the feasibility of a project, Kāinga Ora is required to identify the constraints and opportunities that may influence the key features, and the design or the costs of the project. The matters to be identified are: 

  • any land that may be protected from development
  • nationally significant infrastructure
  • any land subject to a conservation interest, part of a coastal marine area or a local Act
  • any reserve land owned by the Crown, former Māori land and Right of First Refusal land
  • Treaty settlement obligations, participation arrangements and iwi planning documents
  • information that local authorities hold on natural hazards or contaminated land within the proposed area
  • archaeological and historic heritage value of the land
  • the local authority’s urban growth plans and other planning instruments
  • funding options for infrastructure

Kāinga Ora must also identify:

  • the existing planning instruments and iwi planning documents that apply to the proposed project area; and
  • any publicly available reports on climate change matters, prepared in accordance with the Climate Change Response Act 2002 or New Zealand’s obligations under an international treaty, that are relevant to the proposed project area.

Kāinga Ora will engage with Māori and key stakeholders when undertaking a project assessment. Kāinga Ora will also seek expressions of interest from Māori entities in developing any land within the proposed project area in which they have an interest.

Once Kāinga Ora has developed the proposed Key Features, it must publicly notify these and invite the public to give feedback on the same.

SDPs are approved by the responsible government Ministers

After the public notification of the proposed Key Features has concluded, Kāinga Ora must provide the responsible government Ministers with a project assessment report that contains a recommendation on whether the Ministers should establish the project as an SDP.  The responsible government Ministers will then make a decision to formally establish the project as an SDP.  The Act provides a set of criteria that Ministers must consider when deciding establishment.  This includes:

  1. Being satisfied the Key Features are appropriate;
  2. Considering whether the engagement undertaken so far was appropriate and
  3. Being satisfied that the project is either supported by the relevant territorial authorities or that it is in the national interest.

If the responsible government Ministers decide to proceed to establish an SDP, it will be established through an Order in Council and notified in the New Zealand Gazette.

Kāinga Ora will consider all of the following matters when assessing your proposal:

  1. How will the proposal’s objectives contribute towards sustainable, inclusive and thriving communities?
  2. Is urban development in the proposed location for the project consistent with national, regional and district plans/Spatial plans?
  3. How do you believe the SDP process can best enable the proposed objectives for the project to be achieved?
  4. Does the proposed location for the project include any protected land (refer s17(2) and (4) of the Act) and – if so what (if anything) is proposed in relation to that land? 
  5. Kāinga Ora will need to check the status of the land that may be subject to rights of first refusal and any potential implications for the project.
  6. What governance structure is proposed for the project and what is the level of experience of these individuals?

What is Kāinga Ora’s role in establishing an SDP

The Act provides new functions and powers for Kāinga Ora to help it deliver the government’s vision for sustainable, inclusive and thriving communities.  

Once Kāinga Ora receives your completed SDP proposal form [PDF, 583 KB], its team will review your application and may undertake further due diligence on your proposal.

Once Kāinga Ora has completed its review of your proposal it will make a decision in terms of selecting the project for assessment.  If your project is selected for assessment, it will prepare a project assessment report for the responsible government Ministers to consider as set out above.

Preparation of the draft development plan

Once an SDP has been established Kāinga Ora must prepare a draft development plan.

The preparation of the draft development plan is a key part of the SDP process.  The purpose of a development plan is to detail:

  • what the development will look like,
  • how the development will be undertaken,
  • how any of the functions and powers that are able to be exercised for an SDP are intended to be used; and
  • any provisions that modify existing RMA plans and regional policy statements.

Kāinga Ora must also prepare an evaluation report to accompany the draft development plan.  The evaluation report must set out any proposals that would change planning instruments otherwise applying in the project area, environmental matters and details about the proposed infrastructure for an SDP.

Submission process and the Independent Hearings Panel (IHP)

Kāinga Ora must satisfy a number of preconditions prescribed in the Act before it can publicly notify the draft development plan and evaluation report.  Once these preconditions have been satisfied, the public notice must set out where the draft development plan and evaluation report can be accessed, and the date by which submissions on the draft development plan must be received.

Submissions on the draft development plan are heard by an Independent Hearings Panel (IHP) consisting of at least three members, including a current or former Environment Court Judge. The Act provides flexibility around the IHP process to allow a range of mechanisms and processes to be tailored to the project in question.  The IHP can also hold conferences of experts and alternative dispute resolution processes, commission reports and request evidence and information from Kāinga Ora.

Once the submission period has closed, Kāinga Ora must prepare a report to the IHP that considers the submissions and makes recommendations in response to the same.  The IHP has nine months from the date the submission period closes to make its recommendations to the Minister responsible for the Act in respect of the draft development plan.

The IHP can recommend to the responsible Minister that the draft development plan is approved in full, approved with specific amendments, or rejected in full.

When does the development plan become operative?

Any development plan that has been approved by the responsible Minister must be notified in the New Zealand Gazette.  This notice will state the day on which the development plan becomes operative.  Any person who made a written submission on the draft development plan can appeal to the High Court on a question of law relating to the development plan’s approval, with the final appeal court being the Court of Appeal.

Once the development plan becomes operative, Kāinga Ora and its partners can access the development powers for the SDP as set out in the development plan, and undertake the development.

About the Urban Development Act

The Urban Development Act 2020, alongside the Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities Act 2019, sets up a framework for Kāinga Ora to initiate, facilitate or undertake transformational urban development that contributes to sustainable, inclusive and thriving communities.

To read the legislation or to find out more about the Act, visit the Ministry Of Housing and Urban Development(external link) website

Page updated: 16 November 2020