Game-changing national policy on car parking requirements

Game-changing national policy on car parking requirements

Big changes affecting urban development came into force on 20 August with the Government’s new National Policy Statement on Urban Development.

Bryce Powell, a Senior Planner in our Auckland Airport office, discusses what this means for local authorities and in particular the new provision around car park limits.

Over the next two years, local authorities will be busy making changes to district plans to give effect to the new National Policy Statement – Urban Development (NPS-UD)

Many of the eight objectives and 11 policies contained in the NPS-UD are to ensure that cities grow ‘up and out’ and recognise the national significance of having well-functioning urban environments with sufficient development capacity.

Carpark changes
One of the biggest changes and a main talking point currently, is Policy 11, which directs urban authorities to remove minimum car parking requirements from district plans. Instead, it leaves it up to the property owner to determine how many car parks are needed for the activity or to meet their market. This hands-off approach is a huge change in land-use policy for many local authorities.

Previously, under district plans, maximum car parking ratios were broad in application and at times did not match the real-life needs of an activity. For example, it was common to apply the same car parking ratio to all industrial activities based on the floor area. A mechanics workshop may have required the same number of parking spaces as a data centre, which might have a very low demand for car parks.

This has meant that developers have had to provide car parking to meet the minimum number required by Council, regardless of whether they needed the space. A resource consent application to reduce the number of carparks provided little value and was merely an administrative requirement in those situations.

Cost-savings
The new NPS-UD policy recognises the significant economic and opportunity cost of providing car parks.

The cost of providing car parks is significant if we think of the price of land in densely populated urban areas, and the construction cost of providing basement parking spaces.

The removal of minimum parking requirements should result in improved development economics for intensive housing developments and more affordable housing units as a result.

In Summary
The NPS-UD provides national direction for the development of our largest urban areas.

Motor vehicles have shaped land use patterns since the 1950s. Policy 11 will support more intensive land use development with less of a car focus. This is a significant change which should in turn, and over time, underpin improved public transport patronage and viability.

The cost of providing car parking spaces is likely to be socialised. This meaning car owners may become reliant on public carparks where no spaces are in private ownership. Councils will therefore need to consider parking management strategies, including how they provide and manage publicly owned carparks.

It remains to be seen how this new policy will be received in the community, especially where there is an expectation that street parking should be abundant and convenient to businesses and homeowners in urban areas. Watch this space.

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