Central Otago District Council has proposed a ‘‘light’’ district plan change to increase more clarity and reduce compliance costs for development in its five heritage precincts.

The changes will take immediate effect from the date of public notification as they apply to historic heritage under the Resource Management Act.

In a report to council last week, principal policy planner Ann Rodgers said they had been working on heritage guidelines since 2018.

‘‘The focus of the guidelines is on what property owners can do, rather than what they can’t do.’’

The draft heritage guidelines had been prepared by Dr Glen Hazelton to identify the unique characteristics of what makes each precinct special.

‘‘They are designed to enable a sympathetic development that will protect or maybe even enhance precincts,’’ Ms Rodgers said.

She described the proposal as a ‘‘light’’ plan change.

Council proposed amending the assessment needs when somebody applied for a resource consent.

A heritage impact assessment would only be required ‘‘in instances where a proposal is significantly different from any relevant design guideline documents or is of a larger scale’’, the amendment said.

Planning and environment executive manager Louise van der Voort said the proposal gave clarity to people who wanted to build a house and wondered what they had to do.

‘‘The plan, as it is currently written, says the building has to not be inconsistent with the heritage values of the precinct.’’

The guidelines provided direction as to the characteristics of each precinct, she said.

Cr Martin McPherson thanked the staff for the work put into the report.

‘‘I like that it is not overly prescriptive, because you can’t legislate good taste.

‘‘It is going to maintain the integrity of what is there and not run the risk of false heritage being built, so the contemporary will reflect the historic.’’

Cr Tamah Alley questioned the amendment that council should take into account ‘‘the extent to which development supports mana whenua values’’.

‘‘Is that going to be a bit tricky given that we don’t really have a mana whenua presence within town?

‘‘Our relationship with iwi is sort of at the starting point of developing on that journey.’’

Ms Rodgers said the amendment was away of future-proofing the guidelines, and that council did routinely consult with Aukahu, previously Kai Tahuki Otago Natural Resource Management Ltd.

The next step for council would be to finish the proposal and publicly notify the plan change, with immediate legal effect.