District plan rules shape of things to come

Hamilton's new district plan comes into effect today and is expected to shape the next decade of development in the city.

City council staff and elected members were yesterday briefed on decisions made by independent commissioners Bill Wasley and Dorothy Wakeling relating to the plan ahead of its public release today.

Hearings on the plan began last September and ran for 59 days, with 47 reports and more than 10,600 pages of evidence presented.

City planning manager Luke O'Dwyer said staff and councillors were still processing the commissioners' decisions but a 30-page summary document detailing all the key points would be available online from today on the council's website.

The district plan sets the rules for city development over the next decade and is expected to exert more influence on how the city grows compared to the previous district plan, which was regarded by some as too permissive.

O'Dwyer said the new plan enabled growth "but not at any cost".

"As an organisation and politically there is a strong desire that development outcomes are commensurate with its [Hamilton's] standing as a major metropolitan city in New Zealand."

O'Dwyer said the plan contained strong urban design provisions to make sure the city got good quality development outcomes.

"Say, for example, if we get a large office building project in the city we want to make sure it's of really good architectural design and quality so it gives something back to the city."

The new district plan was developed with added importance placed on the central city while also allowing for higher-density residential development.

O'Dwyer said the plan encouraged residential activity in the central city as well as residential development in Dinsdale and around Waikato University.

Hamilton was one of the smallest local authorities in terms of land area and it was vital the city developed its land wisely, he said.

"The plan provides for suburban extensions in the city like you see in Rototuna; what you may see in Rotokauri and Peacockes in the future and certainly in Ruakura, while also allowing for high-density development in our existing areas - for example, apartments down by the riverfront."

The plan also establishes a hierarchy of business centres, with the central city earmarked as the "number one business area".

"We've got a range of areas in the city where businesses can locate but for really big office and retail development, we really want them to be in the central city first," O'Dwyer said.

Submitters to the district plan have 30 days to appeal the decisions of the commissioners.

Any appeals will be heard by the Environment Court.