Questions & answers

In this section, there are a series of common questions and answers regarding the different aspects of the Planning for Growth project.

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Q&A's | Draft District Plan

What is the difference between the District Plan and the Spatial Plan?

The Spatial Plan is a growth strategy outlining the ‘where’ and ‘how’ we will grow. A District Plan is the ‘rulebook’ for land development that turns the strategy into action and aims to implement the goals and directions outlined in the Spatial Plan. The District Plan provides the specifics of how growth will occur, i.e. providing rules around setbacks, site coverage and height.

The Spatial Plan is a 30-year blueprint for Wellington providing high-level direction for where growth will occur in the city, as required by the National Policy Statement for Urban Development (NPS-UD). The District Plan is the main regulatory tool for implementing the Spatial Plan, setting out the policy and rule framework for land use and subdivision. The District Plan is a statutory document, required by the Resource Management Act, which has a 10-year lifespan once it becomes operative.

Why are you reviewing the District Plan?

Under the Resource Management Act, Councils are required to review their District Plan every ten years. This helps our rules around land management and subdivision  be consistent with national planning standards, national environmental standards, as well as regional plans. Wellington City Council District Plan first became fully operative in 2000. Since then, we have undertaken a ‘rolling review’ in which the District Plan has been reviewed section by section. This is the first time the District Plan is being reviewed as a whole.  It is important that our District Plan reflects national direction requirements, best practice and Wellington’s current and future context.

The plan deals with the major planning and environmental issues facing the city – including housing supply, choice and affordability, protecting biodiversity, integrating growth and infrastructure, responding to climate change and managing the risk of natural hazards.

What's the timeline and process for this?

The Draft District Plan engagement is the first step in the District Plan Review. This step is non-statutory, but gives the Council an opportunity to see how people feel towards the proposed provisions. You can submit feedback through the Draft District Plan ePlan. There are also opportunities to attend one of our roadshow events to talk to staff if you have any questions. To see our roadshow event schedule, click here.

After this initial engagement, submissions will be sorted through and a report summarising these findings will be published to our website. The feedback given at this stage will contribute to the creation of the Proposed District Plan.

The Proposed District Plan is our second step in the District Plan Review and begins the statutory notification and engagement process. At this stage there will be another opportunity for the public to make submissions on what is proposed, which will be followed by further submissions and hearings. Council will then provide a decision on the Proposed District Plan. The appeal process is then open to people who made a submission on the Proposed District Plan.

What is the NPS-UD?

The National Policy Statement on Urban Development 2020 (NPS-UD) replaces the National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity 2016. The NPS-UD takes effect on 20 August 2020.

This national policy statement requires Councils to provide sufficient development capacity to meet projected growth requirements in their area over the short (3 years), medium (10 years), and long term (30 years).

Under the NPS-UD we are required to zone sufficient land to provide for growth, and to also test the economic feasibility of development under the zoning framework and ensure there is sufficient infrastructure (existing or planned) to service that development capacity.

The NPS-UD includes a requirement that Councils prepare a Future Development Strategy that shows how and where they will provide for future development.

It also outlines certain policy directions that relate to ‘well-functioning urban environments’, intensification and density, amenity, car parking, and supporting reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to help combat climate change. Under these policies the Council is required to:

  • Amend the District Plan to enable more people to live in, and businesses and community services to locate in:
    • areas near centres and areas with employment opportunities,
    • areas that are well serviced by public transport (existing and future),
    • and areas where there is high demand for housing and business land.
  • Allow six-storey building within walking distance of the city centre, metropolitan centres, and rail stations (except where ‘qualifying matters’ apply)
  • Remove minimum car parking requirements (other than accessible car parks).
  • Ensure urban environments support a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and are resilient.
  • There are exceptions or limitations to these policy approaches in order to consider other matters such as heritage, natural hazards, significant infrastructure, other special characteristics like streetscape character and amenity, etc.

How does the NPS-UD relate to the District Plan?

The Draft District Plan is consistent with the direction set out in the NPS-UD to develop a long-term strategic plan of action in response to future growth pressures. The Draft District Plan follows the process of the adopted Spatial Plan.

The Draft District Plan also proposes key policy directions that align with the NPD-UD, such as:

  • No minimum parking requirements,
  • Minimum of 6 storey building heights within walking distance of the city centre, metropolitan centres, and rail stations (except where ‘qualifying matters’ apply),
  • Ensuring Wellington is a compact city by building within the existing urban form and enabling more people to live in areas that are located near centres and areas with employment opportunities, areas that are well serviced public transport (existing and planned), and where there is high demand for housing and business land,
  • Ensuring Wellington is more resilient to climate change and seismic events and that the natural and built environments are healthy and robust, and that physical and social resilience is implemented through good design,
  • Ensuring Wellington is a greener city, and that new development supports the city’s goals of being a ‘zero carbon capital’ by 2050. In addition to protecting and enhancing the natural environment by integrating it with the urban environment,

We have identified specific issues which may impede in requiring 6-storey minimum building height, examples of these issues are hazards, character housing area and where increased infrastructure is required. Some of these exceptions have been considered to apply as ‘qualifying matters’, which means that the NPS-UD’s prescribed heights may not be appropriate for the area.

What does the announcement of the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Bill mean for the District Plan?

The Government has recently announced a new Bill (the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Bill) that proposes to make amendments to the RMA and the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD).

The amendments include a new planning process for plan changes that give effect to the intensification policies of the NPS-UD. They also involve new medium density residential standards that would allow up to three homes of up to three storeys to be built on most sites without the need for a resource consent. These amendments have not yet been incorporated into the draft District Plan. After the Bill has been passed, we will need to make changes to the draft District Plan before it is notified to make sure it meets the new requirements.

Does the Draft District Plan have legal effect?

The Draft District Plan will not have legal effect until is it notified as a Proposed District Plan in mid-2022. When the statutory Proposed District Plan is notified some sections will have immediate legal effect under the Resource Management Act. These are the sections on Historic Heritage, Sites of Significance to Māori and Significant Natural Areas.

Once the Proposed District Plan is released there is a submissions and hearing process to go through before the plan is fully operative with all sections taking immediate legal effect, and this typically takes at least two years (i.e. not until 2024). A rule in a Proposed District Plan generally has legal effect once a decision on submissions relating to the rule is made by the council and it is publicly notified.

How does the Resource Management Act reform affect the District Plan Review?

The future reform of the Resource Management Act (RMA) has the potential to change what is required of local governments for managing land use. The reform of the RMA introduces three pieces of legislation (Climate Adaptation Act,  Natural and Built Environments Act, and Strategic Planning Act), which will replace the RMA This means that during the ten-year lifespan of the Draft District Plan there may be changes to how we manage land use and the District Plan will need to be updated accordingly.

The Council has statutory requirements to meet (e.g. NPS-UD) which require updates to our District Plan, which have set timeframes which Council must meet (e.g. Council must implement the NPS-UD by August 2022). As such Council has implemented the NPS-UD changes as part of its District Plan review, which have been incorporated into the Draft District Plan. There will also be a transition period of 5-10 years for councils to implement the new Resource Management Act reform requirements. Any changes to the District Plan will be made publicly available.

How is this going to align with LGWM?

The Planning for Growth programme is running in parallel with the Let’s Get Wellington Moving programme (LGWM). A key objective of LGWM is ‘moving more people with fewer vehicles’. This necessitates a change to where and how development occurs and significant investment in a new transport system that includes some form of mass rapid transit.

The City’s planning settings need to enable this change in urban form and the scale of urban development in order to fully realise the benefits of the investment in this significant programme. We have been working with LGWM to ensure that there is alignment between the two programmes as far as possible. The City Centre Zone and Infrastructure chapters have sought to anticipate the future mass transit stations, while also recognising that exact location of stations has not been decided.

Decisions on the final route and mode of any mass transit system are still to be made, and consultation will be occurring on those options alongside the consultation on the draft District Plan. Further changes to the District Plan are likely to be necessary once the final route and mode have been confirmed.

How does the District Plan enable more housing?

The Draft District Plan recognises and responds to the need to provide more housing supply and choice, as well as affordable housing throughout Wellington. The Draft District Plan’s strategic direction on housing  is directed by the Spatial Plan which identifies the need to increase housing supply for an anticipated population increase over the next 30 years of 50,000 to 80,000 more people.

The Draft District Plan proposes significant changes to the planning settings for the city, compared with the Operative District Plan. The Draft District Plan enables more density through significant up zoning of many areas of the City for higher density around key transport routes and centres.

The draft district plan proposes to increase site coverage in the new General Residential Zone and remove the current height restrictions on infill housing. In the new Medium Density Residential Zone there are significant changes to enable more development, including increasing height limits and recession planes and not having any specific site coverage limit for multi-unit housing. The City Centre Zone provides higher height limits in Te Aro and also a minimum height requirement. Measures like these in addition to changes to how we require resource consents help aid the supply of housing.

To get an overview of how residential development controls are proposed to change in the Draft District Plan, check out the Residential, City Centre and Centres Info sheets.

How are you accounting for affordability?

A new ‘Assisted Housing’ chapter is proposed, with four options for how the District Plan could facilitate the provision of affordable housing in new development. The draft chapter is focused on assisted housing (housing provided by a social or community housing provider), and there are four possible options for the District Plan provisions which are subject to feedback.

One option is an easier resource consent for 100% assisted housing developments. The second option considers a building height bonus if some assisted housing is part of the development. The other two options would require a portion of units to be for assisted housing (i.e. housing coordinated by a community housing provider, Kainga Ora or the Council), or a financial contribution paid by the developer to fund new assisted housing in the City’s medium/high growth areas.

For more information, check out the ‘Assisted Housing’ info sheets.

What is the difference between character and heritage?

Often the terms ‘heritage’ and ‘character’ are used interchangeably; however they are two different things in regards to what they protect and the rules that apply under the Draft District Plan.


Heritage is defined in the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) and is recognised as a ‘matter of national importance’ which requires the protection of historic heritage from inappropriate subdivision, use, and development.

Historic heritage is identified and protected in the Draft District Plan through objectives, polices, and rules and includes buildings, groups of buildings, objects, places of significance to tangata whenua and Māori, as well as notable trees.


Character is not defined in the RMA. For the purpose of the work we’ve done character has been defined as:

a concentration of common, consistent natural and physical features and characteristics that collectively combine to establish the local distinctiveness and identity of an area, and that contribute to a unique ‘sense of place’ when viewed by the public at large from the street or other public spaces’.

This can include things such as topography, building age, architectural style pattern, street amenity, boundary setbacks, building height and shape, and site coverage. When there is consistency in these qualities and of the streetscape, character protection may be considered.

For more information on how the Draft District Plan manages heritage and character precincts, please check out the Historical and cultural heritage, and character housing info sheets.

You can also check out the Draft District Plan’s Design Guides for Heritage and Character Precincts.

How have you worked with Mana Whenua?

During the process of creating Draft District Plan we have been consulting with our iwi partners Ngāti Toa Rangatira and Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika and have been getting their input on the chapters. This has included over 100 hui and wānanga attended by Council officers over the last 12 months which has provided a much greater understanding of mana whenua values and aspirations as they relate to the District Plan. We recognise the importance of incorporating Māori values and aspirations in the District Plan, in order to elevate the relationship of tangata whenua with their land, resources and traditions.

How have you incorporated Mana Whenua aspirations?

As a part of the Council’s partnership, incorporating Mana Whenua aspirations into how we manage land is fundamental. The District Plan is Council’s regulatory tool for giving greater recognition to mana whenua values and promoting an active partnership model in resource management processes. The Draft District Plan opens opportunities to actively partner with Mana Whenua, by weaving in policies and rules which reflect Mana Whenua aspirations in land use management.

The draft plan elevates the consideration of mana whenua values in resource management processes, including:

  • A new Tangata Whenua chapter which provides context and clarity about who mana whenua are and what environmental outcomes they are seeking.
  • A new Sites and Areas of Significance to Māori chapter that provides greater protection for sites and areas of significance than the operative district plan.
  • Integrating mana whenua values across the remainder of the plan where relevant.

In particular, the sites and areas of significance to Māori chapter aims to practice active kaitiakitanga (guardianship) over Wellington’s taonga. This prescribes rules about how development interacts with these sites, making sure that these sites will be maintained for future generations.

For more information check out the info sheets for the ‘Sites and Areas of Significance to Māori’ and 'Tangata Whenua' chapters.

We have also provided a Design Guide for Papakāinga, which draws on values such as kotahitanga, tino rangatiratanga and whanaungatanga. This provides direction for architects and developers incorporate these values into their designs.

How does the District Plan factor in infrastructure concerns?

The Draft District Plan recognises that infrastructure plays a critical role in the successful functioning of Wellington City and the lives of Wellingtonians.

The Infrastructure Chapter of the Draft District Plan provides for the ongoing use, maintenance and development of infrastructure within the City. The definition of Infrastructure in the RMA includes “structures for transport on land by cycleways, rail, roads, walkways, or any other means”. The Infrastructure Chapter therefore includes policies and rules for managing the operation, maintenance, repair and renewal, upgrading and development of:

  • the transport network and connections to the transport network, including provisions for cycling and walking
  • network utilities for the transmission or distribution of electricity, gas, fuel or energy, and telecommunications networks and services
  • water, wastewater and stormwater (three waters) treatment systems, networks and services.

The Draft District Plan takes account of the three waters infrastructure challenges which Wellington faces, by considering where growth will be manageable within the ten year lifespan of the Plan. This means that the densities proposed by 30-year Spatial Plan may not be identified within the Draft District Plan, due to the ten year timeframe. Future plan changes will be required to enable the full extent of growth and intensification identified in the Spatial Plan.

The Infrastructure Chapter contains requirements for ensuring hydraulic neutrality of new large-scale residential and non-residential development. It also contains requirements for new large-scale and non-residential development to be able to connect to the reticulated water and wastewater networks, or if this is not possible, to provide an alternative solution that is acceptable to Council and Wellington Water Limited. Three waters solutions must achieve compliance with relevant Wellington Water Regional Standards for Water services.

As part of new development, the draft Design Guides require the consideration of measures to support good practice stormwater management, such as roof gardens and detention tanks. Water conservation measures are also encouraged, for example the reuse of greywater.

The Infrastructure Chapter also contains provisions recognising and enabling the operation, maintenance, repair and renewal, upgrading and development of renewable electricity generation activities, e.g. solar panels and wind turbines.

For more information check out the info sheets for 'Three Waters'.

Does this impact my development?

The Draft District Plan provides new rules around how we develop land. To check out how your development is impacted, have a look at the Draft District Plan or check out info sheets for City Centre, Centres and Businesses, and Residential to get an indication of the amount of change. You can also search for your property in the Draft District Plan’s mapping function to see what zone, overlays and specific controls apply to your site.

How do I check out which zones, overlays and rules apply to where I live?

To check out what applies to where you live, you can use the Eplan Maps. By typing in your address, you will be shown what’s relevant to your property, such as property specific plan chapters, zones, overlays and controls.

For more information, click here to look at our videos on how to use the E-Plan.

Why has the City Outcomes Contribution mechanism been introduced?

The City Outcomes Contribution mechanism replaces the Design Excellence requirements in the Operative District Plan’s Central Area Zone. Under this mechanism, over-height developments are expected to be of a high urban design and amenity standard. Currently Design Excellence is not well defined and greater clarity is needed. The City Outcomes Contribution mechanism seeks to improve the quality of design for projects that have significant impact on the quality and functionality of the city.

How does the City Outcomes Contribution mechanism work?

Developments that are over-height, under-height (in the City Centre Zone only), large-scale residential, non-residential and comprehensive developments trigger City Outcomes Contributions. An applicant can apply to exceed the permitted height limits through the resource consent process. Any potential increase in height above the permitted maximum, if approved through the resource consent process, would need to be offset by a contribution under the City Outcomes Contribution mechanism.

Effects on neighbours would also be a key consideration through the resource consent process, particularly for developments that exceed the permitted height limit. The Design Guides include a matrix table containing the thresholds and how many points are required to achieve City Outcomes Contributions, this differs per zone.

For Metropolitan, Neighbourhoods, Local and Medium Density Zones, this mechanism only applies to exceedances in height by 25% and above. Whereas for developments in the city centre which exceed the permitted height by 10-24% they will need to meet 20 points. The greater an exceedance the larger the City Outcomes Contribution offset and points required. A project can achieve points through meeting the requirements of two or more of the below outcomes:

  • Contribution to public space and amenity
  • Universal Accessibility
  • Sustainability and Resilience
  • Housing Affordability
  • Urban Design Panel.

How will you be ensuring accessibility is prioritised in the District Plan?

The Draft District Plan provides direction on ensuring buildings enable accessibility through objectives and policies of the Plan, as well as through enabling a range of housing types to ensure sufficient choice across the City. The Plan also introduces a  City Outcomes Contribution mechanism with one of the four outcomes being accessibility. The District Plan recognises that there are limitations to accessibility through the requirements of the building code.

The  City Centre Zone and Centres Zone chapters’ objectives and policies require require all new development, where relevant, to achieve good accessibility for people of all ages and mobility and encourage social interaction. These additional policy requirements in the these key Draft District Plan chapters, builds on  the requirements set out in the building code.

The City Outcomes Contribution mechanism seeks to improve the quality of design for projects that have significant impact on the quality and functionality of the city. Developments that are over-height, under-height (in the City Centre Zone only), large-scale residential, non-residential and comprehensive developments trigger City Outcomes Contributions requirements. A project can achieve points through meeting the requirements of two or more outcomes, with one of these outcomes being universal accessibility.

The Design Guides also place an emphasis on universal accessibility to ensure that new development is designed to cater for residents with mobility needs. Design guides provide urban designers and resource consent planners the ability to negotiate good built outcomes with developers i.e. universal accessibility.

The Residential Design Guide applies to multi-unit developments (3 or more units) in Residential Zones (as well as Centres and the City Centre), and addresses accessibility, sustainability and carbon reduction. The Design Guides detail the need for accessibility within developments and open spaces.

The Design Guides recommend, where practical, that developments should provide ground level access that is accessible by people using wheel chairs, and to design units with reference to the NZ standards for access and mobility. The Guides provide suggestions for  how to design developments with enhanced mobility and use. For example:

  • Easy to reach window sills, power sockets and light switches
  • Ensuring flush levels between rooms, at entryways, and shower access
  • Ensuring smoke alarms have both visual and audible alerts
  • Best practice guidance for accessible kitchen, laundry and bathroom design
  • Best practice standards for signage legibility and colour contrast.

How is the allocation of green space able to keep pace with density growth?

The Draft District Plan includes different methods for maintaining and increasing our green space stock, in addition to other methods which sit outside the plan. One method is through the design guides. The Draft District Plan and design guides introduce the ‘City outcomes contributions’ mechanism , to achieve density done well. ‘City outcomes contributions’ mechanism allows for larger development as part of the resource consent process, in return for city outcomes being provided. One of these outcomes that developers can provide is contribution to public space and amenity. For example public open space,  communal gardens, playgrounds, and roof gardens.

The City’s existing green spaces are managed and protected through District Plan zoning, which provides direction on how the spaces and any potential development can be suitably managed. These Open Space zones include the Natural Open Space Zone, Open Space Zone, Sports and Active Recreation Zone and the Wellington Town Belt Zone.  In addition to specific open space zoning protection, other zones have controls to manage the interface of development at the edges of existing public spaces. This is through lower recession plane controls for adjacent buildings in residential zones and a minimum sunlight protection control for listed public spaces in the City Centre Zone.

In addition to the Draft District Plan, the Green Network Plan sets the direction and targets for how we green Wellington’s central city in the next 30 years to address the current deficit and provide for growth. The Green Network Plan is a 30 year plan, whilst the District Plan has a legacy of 20+ years (with the updates being required every 10 years). This will enable more provision of green and open space in the public realm. To see the direction of green spaces within Wellington’s Central City you can check out the 2019 report:

Are there plans to ensure the voice of young people is captured in this process?

It is our intention that we reach a wide range of ages and groups through our Draft District Plan consultation. As detailed below, we have a large range of consultation methods, which we hope this will assist us with our aim to reach a wide group of people in Wellington. In addition Council has its own Youth Advisory group, through who we will be consulting with on the Draft District Plan.

We have provided multiple ways in which people can understand what’s going on within the Draft District Plan;

  • Videos on what is the Draft District Plan and how to submit on it.
  • Info sheets giving an overview of the Plan, with QR codes to quick feedback.
  • Drop in sessions around Wellington.
  • Advertising on social media (Instagram and Facebook).
  • Friends of Submitters service – we have a qualified planner (Emily Bayliss) to help people with the submitting process. Emily is a fully independent and has had no involvement in developing the Draft District Plan

What quality improvements are to be made for the inner city for pedestrians?

The District Plan plays a big role in how we improve the relationship between buildings and the street.  How we design developments have a direct impact on how people feel and use public spaces. Direction is provided through standards in the Plan and also design guidance. For the  City Centre some of the standards which contribute to improvements in the  public realm, include:

  • Providing minimum sunlight access to listed public spaces,
  • Active frontage and verandah requirements along key pedestrian streets which help activate streets, provide shelter and increase the usability and comfort of these streets for pedestrians
  • Street edge height control which aims to increase sunlight access to the street.

Design Guides also help to ensure developments  consider their relationship to the public realm.

Within the Centres and Mixed Use Design Guide, some of the measures which help produce an effective public-private interface, include:

  • Avoiding entrapment areas and blind corners,
  • Ensuring developments positively contribute to the safety, amenity and visual qualities of the public realm when fronting the street through ground floor interface and frontage,
  • Ensuring that connections are of a high quality through features such as wide footpaths, clear sightlines on the street, and lighting.

Within the Residential Design Guide, some of the measures which help produce an effective public-private interface, include;

  • Encouraging step free entrances to ground level dwellings for accessibility,
  • Encouraging new publicly accessible links throughout out new residential sites,
  • Considered design of parks, playground or other enclosed areas to have multiple exit points for user safety.

How do urban environments impact health and wellbeing?

During the 24 June Pūroro Āmua Planning and Environment Committee meeting to adopt the Spatial Plan, a resolution was passed for Council officers to report back on the benefits of quality building design on mental health and wellness indicators as part of the District Plan review.

This document provides a summary of key relevant provisions within the Draft District Plan and the draft Design Guides from a human health and wellbeing perspective. It also highlights a range of other relevant Council programmes and actions contributing to this outcome area and provides links to a selection of research projects and papers (both international and New Zealand based)

Read our info sheet Quality urban environments and impacts on health and wellbeing 29 November 2021

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