Land use planning attempts to manage noise and vibration in a strategic manner. It can provide consistency and certainty when implemented early in the planning process. Land use planning approaches to control the effects of noise and vibration can occur at a national, regional or district/city level and can be complemented by other measures and urban design.

Land use planning options include:

  • National approaches: National Policy Statements, National Environmental Standards, the New Zealand Transport Strategy, New Zealand Standards, Building Codes and the Urban Design Protocol.
  • Regional approaches: plan objectives, policies, rules and associated standards; regional land transport strategies and associated transport policies.
  • District/city approaches: plan objectives, policies, rules and associated standards, such as rules and standards relating to noise barriers, building design, setbacks, site layout and building orientation.

District/city and regional approaches are most used and specific planning options include:

  • Location policies: such as policies recognising a hierarchy of roads within a district/city, policies encouraging new housing to locate near public transport (which assists in reducing the need for travel by private vehicles and, therefore, the magnitude of effects generated).
  • Control-based measures: plan rules specifying suitable building setbacks from major arterial roads. Plan rules restricting the development of certain land uses near existing or planned road corridors, zoning, the use of structure plans to control site layout to reduce the transmission of, or exposure to, noise, or performance standards for noise and vibration sensitive activities (for example resource consent conditions requiring developers to demonstrate that specified internal sound levels have been met).
  • Urban design: such as using plan rules and structure plans to achieve mixed use developments that aim to reduce private vehicle use or to control the location, orientation and design of buildings in order to reduce noise impacts.
  • Strategic land use planning: such as promoting land use patterns that reduce dependency on private vehicles and subsequent road traffic related noise and vibration.

Land use planning approaches in relation to new and altered roads could make reference to NZS 6806 specifying that noise shall be predicted, measured, assessed, and mitigated in accordance with this standard.

NZS 6806:2010 Acoustics – road-traffic noise – new and altered roads(external link)

Land use planning balances several objectives, therefore noise and vibration outcomes will always need to be balanced with other national, regional and local planning issues, while also needing to comply with bottom-line requirements for buildings. Additional information is available on the Quality Planning website.

Quality Planning website(external link)

Managing effects

Management of effects on new (or altered) noise sensitive activities that choose to locate adjacent to or in proximity of the transport network rests with the party establishing the activity.  

We have produced a map containing information about the rules in district plans.

District plan provisions for noise

Further information can also be found within the Guide to the management of effects on noise sensitive land use near to the state highway network, which describes how we work together with local authorities and landowners/developers to manage reverse sensitivity effects from noise and vibration sensitive activities. Appropriate setback distances and criteria for acoustically treating buildings are provided, together with model district plan rules and resource consent conditions.

Guide to the management of effects on noise sensitive land use near to the state highway network

Modelled noise contour approach

We currently rely on fixed distances to define buffer and effects areas where it is necessary to avoid or manage adverse effects on the occupiers of noise sensitive activities. This approach is being refined by using modelled noise contours. The noise contours will have improved accuracy; however, site specific assessment within the contours will still be required. When the noise modelling becomes available for all of New Zealand, we will solely rely on it and the buffer and effects areas will no longer exist, and will be phased out as district plans are reviewed. 

For assistance within the plan making process, Waka Kotahi has also prepared a generic section 32 assessment (under the Resource Management Act 1991) to support district plan provisions, which seek to manage the health effects of noise on the occupants of noise sensitive activities, such as houses. To request a copy of the generic section 32 assessment, email  

The section 32 assessment, and our modelled noise contours, mean there is now a discrepancy between our new practices and some of the information in our Guide to the management of effects on noise sensitive land use near to the state highway network. We are currently working to streamline our guidance and ensure it is consistent. This includes revising our Planning policy manual.

Planning policy manual – for integrated planning and development of state highways

For more information about reverse sensitivity see our frequently asked questions page.

Frequently asked questions about noise and vibration