Revised land development Standard encourages sustainable development and low impact design

Issue 22 – November 2010

Standards New Zealand recently published the revised Land development and subdivision infrastructure Standard NZS 4404:2010. The revised Standard encourages sustainable development, modern design that emphasises liveability and environmental quality, better land use planning, and integrated transport/land use outcomes.

'Urban design and sustainability were key drivers for the revision of NZS 4404, to help raise the quality of design for infill subdivisions and new subdivisions,' says Mark Apeldoorn, IPENZ representative on the NZS 4404 review committee. 'There's now a new section on climate change and a lot more flexibility in the selection and use of materials to create streets and establish infrastructure such as stormwater and utilities.'

Revisions to NZS 4404

Some of the key changes from NZS 4404:2004 are:

  • road design needs to consider land use 'context' and community liveability by emphasising 'place' in the road design process
  • to require community-focused roads to achieve slower operating speeds to improve traffic safety
  • an emphasis on managing and treating stormwater 'before it gets into a pipe' and a requirement to consider climate change and potential sea level rise
  • grassed swales, natural or artificial waterways, ponds and wetlands, for example, may in certain circumstances be not only part of the stormwater system, but also be a preferred solution, especially if low impact on receiving waters downstream is critical
  • the sections on landscaping and reserves have been combined and significantly rewritten
  • the section on utility services (section 8) has also been significantly advanced in accordance with the latest network authorities' codes.


The revised NZS 4404:2010 helps designers to place more emphasis on urban design, sustainability, and low impact design during the planning process and during the detailed design and construction phase of establishing subdivision infrastructure.

'NZS 4404:2010 is about building better urban amenity and places for people to live,' says Brett Gawn, NZS 4404 committee Chair. 'It provides standards for design of subdivision and land development infrastructure including roads, drains, water pipes, and underground services, consistent with good design and low impact design.

'For example, the Standard includes recommendations on how to treat and manage stormwater runoff from roads before it gets to rivers, streams, and the ocean. Using low impact design tools in the Standard reduces contamination of our waterways and reduces the impact of development.'

This new approach to road design (generally narrower carriageways) and low impact design for stormwater management reduces the quantity of construction materials required. This reduces the demands on non-renewable resources such as cement, gravel, bitumens, and fuel used to transport, make, and maintain these infrastructure assets.

Urban form

NZS 4404:2010 considers urban form – how road networks connect, the form, width, and amenity of carriageways and the road reserve, and encourages good environmental design.

'NZS 4404:2010 has established a strategic link between land use and the transport function,' says Apeldoorn. 'For example, as part of the design process, designers need to understand the purpose for which land is to be used, and they need to demonstrate how they have selected a road type to match that land use by preparing a “Design and Access Statement”.

'The Standard also includes target road operating speeds and designers should be designing roads to achieve these speeds through establishing the alignment and landscaping of roads.'

NZS 4404:2010 includes more emphasis on connectivity for roading, walking, and cycling, and recommended guidance for walking distance to a collector road (a road that carries passenger transport services). This emphasis on connectivity will help people to reduce their carbon footprint.

'NZS 4404:2010 considers a range of street users and the emphasis of road design is no longer just on moving vehicles and providing a place for network utilities,' says Keith Hall, NZS 4404 committee member representing the New Zealand Planning Institute. 'The process and flexibility built into NZS 4404:2010 will help achieve good urban design outcomes and safer neighbourhood streets.

'The new Standard prioritises pedestrians, then cyclists, public transport users, and the movement of freight and goods over the needs of motorists. NZS 4404:2010 emphasises the safety needs of the most vulnerable users and those methods that are the most energy efficient.'

The NZS 4404 review committee included representatives from the following nominating organisations: Association of Consulting Engineers New Zealand, Ingenium, Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand, Local Government New Zealand, Ministry for the Environment, New Zealand Institute of Surveyors, New Zealand Planning Institute, New Zealand Transport Agency, New Zealand Utilities Advisory Group, Plastics New Zealand, Road Controlling Authorities Forum New Zealand Inc., Urban Design Forum, and Water New Zealand.

In July and August 2010 IPENZ ran nationwide seminars about NZS 4404:2010 for engineers, surveyors, and planners. In August 2010 the New Zealand Planning Institute and the Urban Design Forum ran workshops about NZS 4404:2010 for planners and urban designers. The Institute of Surveyors is also planning branch workshops to help members play their part in encouraging local authorities to adopt NZS 4404:2010 as the base for design of subdivision and land development infrastructure in their areas.

This article was published in Build magazine October/November 2010 and was written by Rosalie Chamberlain at Standards New Zealand.

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