Draft District Plan, Hutt City: so hot right now! Your submission guide

A city’s rulebook (district plan) can block or enable a denser, more vibrant urban environment. Our nerd networks have done a helpful guide so get in there – submissions close 15 December

Hutt CIty is consulting on a new draft District Plan, a complete new replacement for the existing plan. 

Fun fact: in their specific “Plan Change 56”, they were the first city (vs district) in NZ to implement the National Policy Statement on Urban Development, thereby removing the main impediments in planning rules to doing more with urban land.  Now it’s the rest of the District Plan! 

On the main webpage they’ve got some really handy fact-sheets about individual topics – plus of course the full draft plan, and everything proposed is shown on maps. 

Feedback is open until 15 December.

It’s a huge document, as these things are, so for urban nerds who want fairer, more sustainable, more prosperous cities (which we assume otherwise you wouldn’t be reading Talk Wellington!), some new things they’re suggesting that we reckon you’ll want to give feedback on:

  • A new “Mixed Use” zone along key public transport corridors that allows small-scale businesses and community facilities as-of-right
  • New rules to encourage business and housing to be located in centres, by exempting them from “high trip generator” assessments
  • New rules to require cycle parking and end of trip facilities
  • Discouraging vehicle crossings on main “active frontage” streets in local centres, to encourage walkability and enable streets to be closed to traffic (opened to people) temporarily or permanently with less hassle from those who only ever experience the street from behind a steering wheel
  • Urban design provisions for residential and commercial areas – no longer regulating purely aesthetic issues for homes (seems like a crazy level of bureaucratic intervention, but Hutt City council (like many others) used to require individual buildings to mix and match multiple building materials purely because they thought it looked nicer.)
  • Encouraging landscaping to achieve stormwater benefits as well as (or instead of) just looking nice – hooray!
  •  More focus on safe and high-quality pedestrian access to buildings – though these are relatively high-level directions without many specifics 
  • A resource consent pathway for small-scale commercial in High Density Residential areas – hooray, enabling small neighbourhood businesses 

They’re planning to keep the changes to height and density unchanged from Plan CHange 56, the recent intensification plan change, so medium density in most residential areas, and high density in and around the city centre, Petone, and train stations. (Note this is enabling, not a requirement; so a landowner wanting to do a one-storey development anywhere in the medium density zone can do so, as can someone wanting to do a two-storey development in the high-density zone – e.g. a Paddington in the centre of Lower Hutt.) 

Things to think about for your feedback 

Giving support to good things that will (in the short term) put more pressure on street parking so will get lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth and submissions in opposition. 

Two classic examples of things that need support are:

  • removing a barrier for small businesses to get premises in centres by exempting them from the “trip generator” requirements (i.e. no longer forcing them to provide off street parking)
  • enabling people to build more homes around centres without being forced to provide off street parking if you don’t want (this is Plan Change 56 stuff but the District Plan makes it more comprehensive).  

These kinds of changes, from the Planning department, are the beginning of council slowly starting to turn the Good Ship Lower Hutt away from its current, chronic car-dependency. 

Importantly, another team of council – the Transport team – has lots of things that need to catch up and complement this good move, like intelligent parking-management. This will need a good boost from the public too, so it’s worth saying that.

The Mixed Use zone:

It’s helping Hutt have better neighbourhoods with more little neighbourhood-focussed businesses providing useful amenities close to where people live. (Think grocery stores, daycares, cafes, pharmacies.)  But some people will probably want it shrunk or watered down, simply because in New Zealand we’re unfamiliar with good mixed-use that people get to on foot, bikes, or scooters because it’s really close, and we can more easily imagine the very segregated arrangements driven by Euclidian zoning which invariably include lots of traffic or trucks because uses aren’t mixed in together

Which this simply won’t be, because a large, traffic-heavy business simply won’t be able to get enough land parcels together to make something big, and instead it’s far likelier to be someone with a small business focused on the local community because that’s the market.    

So it’s worth letting council know you can imagine neighbourhood-scale, neighbour-focussed businesses that make a place nicer to live. (For some examples to include, if you like, see examples here on Strong Towns

Safe and high-quality walking access to buildings: 

Great to have but it’s a bit vague here. Given how car-centric is the wider Hutt environment right now, building owners will probably do a minimum so some more specifics are useful.  Think about how people on foot (vs in cars) get at the front of the building, access through blocks via alleyways, a human-scale street grid, and making continuous legible routes for people (instead of this kind of carryon). If you’ve any tips for others to use in their submissions, put them in the comments! 

Plantings that do more than just sit there and look nice

Ditto for making urban landscaping do two jobs – a stormwater job as well as prettiness. Tamaki-Makau-Rau Auckland has good water-sensitive urban design guides and they and Kirikiriroa Hamilton are a good few years ahead of the Wellington region, so they’re an inspiration for more specifics.

Complementing these good changes in other instruments: 

This will make your submission stand out because most folks don’t know the roles of the District Plan (a local, “Can’t” and “Must” type rulebook) versus important things like:

  • the Long Term Plan (a biggie! It’s council’s budget, out for consultation next year – includes whether stuff will get rates funding or borrowing, or no money at all) 
  • Policies, like the Parking Policy (old!) and Reserves Policy (which are an essential prerequisite for managing things, but need money for their enforcement and implementation)
  • the Network Operating Framework (which Hutt doesn’t seem to have, but is crucial for strategically managing and appropriately maintaining the road and street network)
  • the Regional Land Transport Plan (that defines broadly what transport projects are going to seek central government funding). 

A bit more encouragement…

Submission close 15 December.  Remember: you’re a regular citizen, no-one’s going to expect you to go full nerd.  

It’s worth saying explicitly things that will help councillors and officers see what you want.

For example:  

I support provisions that will [insert good thing you like]. If you can cite numbers, that’s a bonus. 

I support, and I want to see made stronger, provisions that will [insert good thing you like] 

And give some reasons, especially relating to bigger-picture, get-perspective angles:  

  • how important it is to transition the city’s urban fabric away from car-dependency and financially unsustainable  low-density urban form, towards livelier, more prosperous, more sustainable
  • the fact that we have to START that – we can’t keep kicking all those cans down the road 
  • how all transition periods are messy and we should think of our kids, etc and be brave, minimise the bad stuff, max up the goodness and keep moving forward


If you are willing to speak to your submission – just the same stuff as above – that’s great! It has a huge impact versus just a written one. Tick the box that says “I wish to submit in person” or similar. 

 If you’d like support, drop us a line – we can help you feel confident and be even greater.

Image credits:

  • Housing – Kevin Stent – Stuff
  • Gallery of small businesses:

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