Rotorua's Proposed District Plan supports a progressive platform for the future, says mayor Steve Chadwick.

After three years of intensive community engagement and consultation, Rotorua's most important planning document for future development and land-use is nearing completion.

"From the start we wanted the district plan to be enabling and to provide the flexibility for our community to flourish and prosper," Mrs Chadwick said.

"As this plan establishes a very progressive platform for our district's future, we made a commitment to develop it through genuine collaboration with our community. This will ensure it becomes a widely accepted and sustainable document that can contribute to the positive future we all aspire to.

"We also needed to ensure that the district plan would give momentum to the bold Rotorua 2030 vision and goals for the future that have been developed in partnership with our community. "

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The release of decisions follows analysis of 622 separate submissions, eight months of public hearings, and deliberations by a panel of commissioners on more than 10,000 submission' points.

The plan's alignment with key Rotorua 2030 goals includes:

* Revitalisation of Rotorua's inner city area - by enabling a wide range of activities in the central city, restricting 'leakage' of commercial businesses and offices to areas outside the CBD, and reducing the CBD footprint through rezoning.

* Improving lakes water quality - through objectives and policies in the plan, and the introduction of land-use change initiatives.

* Enhancing opportunities for economic growth - by increasing the areas zoned for industrial and commercial development and providing an enabling rule framework.

* Partnership with iwi - by recognising iwi's potential for contributing significantly to economic development and cultural values, by including a specific iwi chapter aimed at enabling iwi aspirations for development and cultural heritage protection.

* Sustainable living - by introducing a policy framework promoting sustainable housing and renewable energy, and protecting areas valued by Rotorua people - such as lakes, forest, the caldera rim and geothermal features.

* Choices for living and playing - through rezoning new and diverse areas for residential development and rural lifestyle.

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* Fostering innovation - by developing zones for commercial tourism, and for business and innovation to attract international companies where Rotorua has a competitive advantage (eg geothermal, forestry/wood processing).

* Lakeside settlements - recognising the settlements' contribution to our tourism sector, and taking an innovative approach in the plan to the management of lake structures.

District plans are essential council planning tools for guiding district development and land-use and are a requirement under the Resource Management Act (RMA).

Submissions to the Proposed District Plan were considered by a panel of commissioners acting under delegated authority from Rotorua District Council, before reaching the decisions released this week.

Mrs Chadwick paid tribute to the three main commissioners - Rotorua district councillors Glenys Searancke, Janet Wepa and Karen Hunt - and to council officers, for their work on the plan. She said their perseverance, dedication, professionalism and hard work was deserving of high praise. Mrs Chadwick also expressed appreciation to the thousands of local residents and other stakeholders who had been part of the process over many years.

"We acknowledge that some decisions will not please every submitter. However the appeals process provides another opportunity for the council to listen and for decisions to be refined.

"Partnerships like this are the way of the future for Rotorua District Council and they clearly reinforce the principles behind the motto on our district crest - 'Tatau tatau - we together,'" Mrs Chadwick said.

The RMA provides a process for any decisions to be appealed to the Environment Court. Those parts of the proposed plan not appealed will become 'operative,' in late January, replacing sections of the current district plan adopted in 1996. The new Rotorua District Plan in full will come into effect once any appeals have been dealt with.

Appeals to the Environment Court can only be lodged by previous submitters, and only on points covered in their earlier submissions. Submitters have been advised in writing of their appeal options and have 30 working days from receipt of those letters to lodge their appeals in accordance with RMA requirements.

Decision reports on the Proposed District Plan, a version of the plan showing changes resulting from the decisions, and maps, can be viewed online from the council website www.rdc.govt.nz, while printed copies can be inspected at the council's Customer Centre and District Library. Printed volumes can be purchased from the council, and are also available on CD.

SUMMARISED HIGHLIGHTS OF PROPOSED DISTRICT PLAN DECISIONS:
Inner city
* Removal of requirement for businesses to provide on-site parking to encourage mix of uses, eg tourist accommodation
* Removal of financial contributions to Council for new inner city developments
* Whakatau Block zoning changed from mixed commercial/residential use to residential, to encourage businesses into inner city
* QE lakefront site changed from reserve status to allow future commercial, retail, tourism and residential development
* Restricting commercial activity in other zones to encourage inner city commercial activity
* Reinforcing Tutanekai St 'spine' by requiring pedestrian friendly activities and building design

Iwi partnerships
* More permissive and enabling rules, and process simplification, for discretionary activity on Maori land (eg marae development)

Economic growth
* Reduced development restrictions around natural hazards
* Supporting business and innovation by establishing three cluster zones - Waipa for mixed business and tourism, geothermal; Eastgate for industrial/commercial; Scion for geothermal, forestry science
* Identification of Taheke and Ohaki areas for geothermal commercial development
* Allowing mixed use industrial/commercial zones at city entranceways
* Preserving economic rural land through minimum lot size

Sustainable living/places to play
* More permissive rules for structures in lakeside settlements
* Caldera rim rural backdrop retained but development allowed in less sensitive areas
* More land released for residential development - Pukehangi Rd area providing options in a unique location (previously zoned rural)
* Minor changes to many rules to make them more enabling (eg minimum distance from property boundary for building reduced from 2.5m to 1m)
* Previous proposal to allow high density housing in Hamurana, changed back to retain current status (ie large lots).