Changing the Planning Rules

The Resource Management Act (RMA) allows any person to request that a District or Regional Plan be changed – this process is typically referred to as a ‘Plan Change’ request. Whilst most plan changes are initiated by Councils wishing to change their own District or Regional Plans, in some instances it is preferable for a landowner or developer to initiate their own ‘Private Plan Change’ to suit their aspirations.

The purpose of a plan change is to amend existing objectives, policies and rules of the District or Regional Plan or, alternatively, to add new provisions in order for new or different activities to occur on a site or in a wider area. They are typically undertaken when the current plan rules would not support a successful resource consent application.

By contrast, a resource consent is for a specific activity to occur on a specific site and therefore suits one-off types of activities. Resource consents are usually restrained by prescriptive conditions and they tend to have a specific lifespan or expiry date if they are not implemented.


Plan changes are typically undertaken:

  • To rezone land from one zone to another, such as from rural to rural-residential or to create new residential, commercial or industrial zones within a town.
  • To re-define the extent of the urban limits in a wider region, in order to identify areas where future growth and development can occur (or where it cannot).
  • To add or remove heritage or notable trees from District Plan schedules.
  • To include or amend outline development plans and/or structure plans for utilities in future growth areas.
  • To change controls relating to site development, for example; the introduction of new height limits, site densities, building controls, landscape and/or urban design criteria, noise limits or traffic requirements.
  • To change controls to allow for different land uses, for example;  to better provide for retirement villages or childcare centres in residential areas.
  • To change plan provisions to better reflect new and changing legislative requirements, for example; to remove rules which are more restrictive than a new National Environmental Standard, or revise rules that refer to out of date standards.

Eliot Sinclair has prepared numerous comprehensive private plan change requests to both Christchurch City and Waimakariri District Councils in recent years. We have also prepared submissions on behalf of submitters on proposed plan changes notified by the District and Regional Councils.

Our knowledgeable staff can assist you to liaise with District and Regional Councils in the first instance and then can progress to preparing your submission, technical reports or your comprehensive private plan change request.

For more information on plan changes please see the link below.