The Nelson Plan will integrate all our RMA plans into one document. Photo: File.

What happened to the Nelson Plan?

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In November 2013, Nelson City Council resolved to embark on a full review of its resource management plans as a means to make Nelson a better place to live. It would encompass our regional policy statement, air quality plan and resource management plan into one almighty, integrated document – the ‘Whakamahere Whakatū Nelson Plan’. But, six years and two council terms later, there is still no sign of a draft document to show the public. Kate Russell finds out why.

Think of the Nelson Plan as a ‘instruction manual’ for managing how our city grows and develops in the future.

It will prescribe how we manage the growth, development and protection of our built and natural environment, for example, setting limits for subdivision, building height, earthworks or discharging pollutants into waterways.

Our current plans are out-of-date – the operative Nelson regional policy statement and resource management plan were both developed in the 1990s, while the Nelson air quality plan became operative in 2008.

While these plans have been subject to some changes, they have not undergone a full review.

The road to the Nelson Plan has been a long and arduous one, starting in 2014 when council adopted the Nelson 2060 Strategy. This was a non-regulatory, community-led vision for Nelson in 2060, followed by 10 goals to guide council in its development of policy.

A range of strategic outcomes were adopted which have guided work towards the development of a draft regional policy statement (RPS). This, in turn, will set the overall strategic direction for the final Nelson Plan.

In 2015, feedback was sought from the community on the main themes these strategic outcomes sought to address, along with other issues, and around 300 responses were received.

In 2016 council released the draft RPS for feedback and, in 2017, the draft Nelson Plan was workshopped with elected members, iwi and freshwater working groups. An initial peer review was then carried out.

There was public engagement on fault, liquefaction, and river flooding hazards along with engagement with landowners who have significant natural areas or heritage values on their properties.

Nelson’s business and development community were also engaged with.

In 2018, the draft Nelson Plan was completed and compiled as one document.

Clare Barton, group manager environmental management at council, says the next step will be to send a draft out for the public to comment on.

“The council wants robust testing of the content before adopting it for notification. That takes time and, rightfully, so it should, given the plan will shape the city for the next decade. We are committed to having a plan that reflects the needs of the community and to get to that stage, officers have undertaken a considerable amount of technical work.”

While Clare couldn’t give Nelson Weekly a time frame, mayor Rachel Reese estimates a draft could be ready for the public early next year.

She says she knows council is disappointed with the slow process.

“I would have liked to have seen it completed a year ago. There is a real frustration that I can’t deliver this to Nelsonians sooner.

“We really want to get this out for public feedback, but we also want to make sure that it’s done right.”

And will the looming election impact the process? Rachel doesn’t think so.

“There’s always a risk when you don’t get something signed off before an election. There will be a number of new councillors around the table next term and a new council could have a different approach to planning,” she says.

“But the work is robust, and I would be surprised if there was a change.”