Frequently asked questions

What is a UDA?

UDAs are set up to oversee urban development projects, which could be for housing or commercial purposes, supported by the necessary infrastructure such as roads and water supply, and amenities like parks, community spaces and shopping centres.

Have UDAs been used overseas?

Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth are all using UDAs to help urban transformation. Similar approaches have been taken in London and Singapore, creating commercially viable and sustainable development, high-quality design and urban regeneration. They have also accelerated housing supply, built community facilities and services, and kick-started redevelopment in areas where there was little market interest.

Why do we need UDAs in New Zealand?

The growth of New Zealand cities has predominantly occurred by expansion of the urban footprint into the surrounding countryside and our development framework and rules have been designed for this approach. However, like many developed countries, we are entering a new phase of city development involving substantial redevelopment of existing urban areas.

The Productivity Commission recommended in 2015 that UDAs be able to assemble sites, master-plan large residential developments and partner with private sector groups to deliver them.

How would a UDA work?

Publicly controlled UDAs would draw up a development plan for the proposed project and consult the community on this plan. The Government proposes that, in appropriate cases, this development plan may override parts of existing and proposed district and regional plans. This would happen only where the Government decides that the public benefit from the project outweighs the broader requirements at district or regional level.

This means, for example, a UDA may be able to apply different requirements for housing density or height restrictions than apply across the rest of the city.

What about Treaty settlements and protecting the environment?

All UDAs would have to honour Treaty settlements, comply with national environmental standards and protect heritage sites and sites of significance to mana whenua identified in wider plans. They would also have to assess the effects of the development on the environment.

Where would we use UDAs?

UDAs are likely to be suitable for a small number of significant projects, such as suburb-wide regeneration like that the currently underway in Tamaki, Auckland. UDAs would only be established for urban development, but could not apply to a whole city or town. Consequently, only land already within an urban area, or that is sufficiently close to an urban area that it may in future service or become part of that area, will be affected by the proposed legislation.

What powers would UDAs have?

They would be able to assemble parcels of land, including existing compulsory acquisition powers under the Public Works Act, override existing and proposed district plans and regional plans, and plan and build infrastructure such as roads, water pipes and parks. They would also have the authority to buy, sell and lease land and buildings, borrow to fund infrastructure and levy charges to cover infrastructure costs.

UDAs would not have building consenting powers.

How long does a development project last?

UDAs are formed to oversee a development project for a certain period of time. For larger projects, this could be up to 20 years. The development project is then disestablished but the UDA itself may continue to oversee other development projects.

Who decides if we need a UDA or not?

Central government or a territorial authority, or both, can propose a UDA but both must agree on whether to progress it after an initial assessment.

Will there be public consultation on the specific projects a UDA is formed to oversee?

Yes – there will be public consultation firstly before any development project can be established and secondly on the development plan prepared for the area affected.

Will UDAs enable land to be taken by compulsory acquisition?

UDAs will be able to assemble land for development through a combination of acquiring government or council owned land, buying land from private owners and, as a last resort asking the Minister for Land Information to use existing powers under the Public Works Act to compulsorily acquire land in the proposed project area. The existing process and protections under the Public Works Act will continue to apply. This proposal does not extend those powers.

Can UDAs only be used for housing? What are some scenarios where a UDA may be able to help?

No. Types of projects on which UDAs could focus include the development of:

  • areas of regional or national importance
  • areas where the public owns significant land-holdings, such as suburbs with high concentrations of Housing New Zealand land
  • areas where government is investing significantly in public services or amenities, such as health or educational institutions
  • areas along new or revitalised transport corridors, or around centres identified for growth
  • inner-city brownfield areas and under-utilised commercial and residential neighbourhoods where land ownership is fragmented underutilised areas where there is potential for urban transformation to support local economic development.