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Your Rights as an Affected Neighbour: Navigating Development Under the RMA

By Anna Bensemann, Senior Planner, Baseline Group | Jun 16, 2023

When your neighbour decides to do a development next door you may be concerned how the changes might affect you enjoying your own property. This can be a greater concern if your neighbour is Kāinga Ora, the government agency responsible for social housing. It is helpful to understand what the District Plan is going to manage, and what your rights are throughout this process.

In an urban setting, District Plans manage where buildings can be located on a property, including how far from boundaries and how tall buildings can be, known as bulk and location rules. These rules are designed to ensure neighbours access to sunlight and privacy is retained to the extent provided by the zone rules. This may not meet your expectations about how big a dwelling can be next door, but they are usually the same rules across the whole zone. These rules are not designed to maintain your views across someone else’s land, as they have the same rights as everyone else to develop their land, within bulk and location limits.

There are also rules around what types of activities can occur on a site. In an urban area these will enable residential activities to occur and will provide for dwelling density limits, such as one dwelling per a specified square meter section. There are usually rules limiting the scale of commercial activities within urban areas to ensure they remain a pleasant place for people to live.

Where a development breaches a rule relating to bulk and location or density often an adjoiningneighbour is considered as a potentially affected party. The developer may approach the neighbour and seek their written approval, either as part of their own pre-lodgement consultation, or because they have lodged a consent and Council planning staff have told them their neighbour is potentially affected.

As a potentially affected party there is no requirement you sign approval if you are not happy with the development, or you may take the opportunity to negotiate a different design or layout to improve potential effects on you. If you choose not to provide approval, the developer has the option for Council to notify the application to you and you have the chance to supply a submission in opposition, indicating if you wish to have your concerns heard at a hearing.

Irrespective the developer, including government agencies, Council decision makers will look at the effects in terms of the residential use, density expectations of the district plan, and the scale of breaches of bulk and location rules to determine if the development is appropriate. If a development achieves the standards in relation to your boundary relating to bulk and location, there is a chance you may not be considered as a potentially affected neighbour. Understanding the scope of the District Plan's control helps clarify when and why you might be consulted regarding a neighbouring development.

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