Debunking Mixed Housing Zone Myths

That will be $500 + GST please


It seems when I opened up Chrome this morning there was quite a fuss in regards to Mixed Housing Zones. Seems Orsman from The Herald has cotton on to something that has been floating around for a while, while also proving one must be up to play with the English language to catch finer details.


Mixed Housing Zones and debunking this round of myths attached. Seriously I am going to invoice Orsman $500 + GST for writing this post in spelling out Mixed Housing Zones РAGAIN for the  fifth time now. First lets take a look at what our Ageist Old Fart wrote this time:


From the NZ Herald

Height limit three storeys, not two

By Bernard Orsman @BernardOrsman

5:30 AM Saturday May 18, 2013


Height rule shock for half of city residents: Three-storey blocks, not just two, will be allowed – and you won’t get a say

Half of suburban Auckland could be built up with three-storey apartments and residents will have no say when developers move into their street.

After nine weeks of telling Aucklanders the maximum height of “small-scale apartment buildings” in neighbourhoods was two storeys, the Auckland Council has admitted the height limit is three storeys.

Three-storey apartments are possible in the “mixed housing” zone in the city’s new planning rulebook. The zone covers 49 per cent of urban Auckland and most suburban streets have some degree of mixed housing.

The council has also told the Weekend Herald that developers can apply to exceed the four, five and six-storey height limits in the terraced housing and apartment zones, which make up 7 per cent of urban Auckland close to town centres in the draft Unitary Plan.

Last night, Penny Pirrit, head of regional and local planning, denied the council had not been upfront with Aucklanders over the maximum heights in the two zones, saying the figures given were what was permitted as of right and, like now, developers could apply to build higher.

“At the moment [in the mixed housing zone] the plan says as a permitted activity it is 8m but there is the opportunity to go to 10m,” she said.

Ms Pirrit said applications to increase the height to 10m were a non-notified restricted discretionary activity, which meant they would be decided by officers with no input from residents.

Applications would have to meet criteria, such as height in relation to boundary, whether the building would dominate next-door properties, shade a house or yard, breach light controls and be in keeping with neighbourhood character, she said.

If people did not like the proposed height of apartments in suburban areas, they could give the council feedback and it would be considered as part of the Unitary Plan process.

The mixed housing zone allows for one house per 300sq m. But if a developer or landowner has a site more than 1,200sq m and a 20m street frontage, there are no density rules and apartments can be built.

The rules do not apply to the single housing zone, which permits one house per 500sq m and covers 35 per cent of urban Auckland, or the single lot zone (9 per cent) covering large lots mostly on the city fringe.


The parts in bold is where knowing one’s English can come into play. Knowing the planning rules as well would also be of help. So I can see where residents would be upset as even I would be with the “¬†decided by officers with no input from residents”¬†bit as I am in a Mixed Housing Zone. In the same regard that kind of power to the central planners falls directly in the face to my Centralised Master Community Plan and Semi-Liberal Plan District planning models mentioned in my submission to The Auckland Plan.

But as for details as such with the Mixed Housing Zone, it is time to look at a previous post on the matter.



Posted by BR:AKL_Admin01 on May 9, 2013 · 2 Comments (Edit)


The Unitary Plan has a residential zone called Mixed Housing Zone, its description is this from the draft Unitary Plan:

Mixed Housing zone –¬†Zone description

This zone is the most widespread residential zone in Auckland. It enables two storey housing in variety of sizes and forms detached dwellings, semi-detached dwellings,town houses and terraced housing and low-rise apartments. The variety of housing types and sizes provided for will increase the supply of housing, create diverse neighbourhoods and provide housing choice. This zone encourages new development patterns by providing increased housing densities with the highest density levels enabled on large sites with wide road frontages. The basis for these provisions is that the larger the size of the site and the wider its frontage, the greater the  opportunity to integrate the development into the neighbourhood and provide a range of dwelling types. Over time, the appearance of neighbourhoods within this zone will change but they will retain their suburban residential context. A resource consent is required in this zone where five or more units are being built on a site. A key part of the resource consent process will be determining if the site is of a size, shape, slope and with sufficient street frontage to achieve quality residential development. The zone provisions also ensure that development does not detract from the amenity and character of adjoining development or sites. Non-residential activities are provided for but the range is limited to those which include a residential component or will benefit the local community.


I have below as an embed a 9 page PDF on how the Mix Housing Zones COULD work in Auckland. This PDF was forwarded onto me by an anonymous source. Please NOTE that the Unitary Plan is still a draft so the PDF should be treated as a draft on how things MIGHT look under Mixed Housing


In that PDF the English was being played with again with this quote:

Mixed Housing Definition


While “Two Storey” is mentioned, the word “intended” is also used as well. ‘The Mixed Housing Zone is INTENDED to accommodate…” Not WILL ACCOMMODATE but, INTENDED TO ACCOMMODATE. Big change in the meaning of the sentence with one little word.


In the same regard looking at the Unitary Plan definition the term “Low-Rise apartment” is used. If I took the Wikipedia definition of the “rises” this is what you get:

From Wikipedia

  • Low Rise: up to 4 storeys
  • Mid Rise: 4-12 storeys
  • High Rise: over 12 stories
  • Super Tall: 300 metres plus


So if we play with international planning guidelines, there is nothing stopping a 4 storey apartment blocks being built in the Mixed Housing Zone. It is only because Council has placed a three storey discretionary limit on Mixed Housing Zones do we get apartment blocks not being able to hit four storeys in the Mixed Housing Zone.


Although three storeys is interesting. It is either a super large house at 5-8 bedrooms which Auckland is not planning for any how (a post will be done on this, this weekend) or the smallest of apartments known as Walk-Ups commonly seen in the USA and UK.

So if the Urban Design controls are strict enough what is the issue with three storey in appropriate places? Answer РNONE!


As a Redux to my Unitary Plan thoughts I bring you to attention my previous posts which are forming the basis of my submission to the Unitary Plan


Those two pieces I should make compulsory reading. While some Councillors have been running round like (as Whale Oil terms it) buggers muddle, at least my lines have been clear, AND clear in most aspects since 2010 with the Auckland Plan.



Orsman; I take cheques, cash and direct debit please… Seriously though why people read the Herald for their Unitary Plan stuff I be bothered to know. Least Rudman was on fire yesterday with his article yesterday – then again he is known for some good moments from time to time.


To be fair though both sides have been playing hard and fast with the English language. Council through the Unitary Plan have been somewhat loose using words like “intended,” then mentioning two storey and low-rise apartments in the same sentence (which should be treated as two separate concepts any how). But, Councillors like George Wood have also been rather loose with their English as well when claiming alarm over three storey walk-up apartments in a mixed housing zone when it was always possible under the UP. If one decided bother to go read up the definitions of things like: “intended” and “low-rise” one might have cotton on that the UP had somewhat maximum flexibility in the Mixed Housing Zone, and that low-rise apartments of up to a true maximum of four storeys was always possible (although the UP has it as three).


As for three storeys in a whole; what on earth is the problem folks seriously. If I was to take the 49% up for mixed housing I bet I could get half of that as suitable for three storey houses and the odd low-rise apartment block. For heavens sake three storey houses with five to eight bedrooms in Auckland but we seem to have forgotten about that and focus on one to three bedroom stuff… Groan – absolute groan…


Something tells me this particular saga is going to roll on for a while yet while people cotton onto something that has been apparent since March 16…



BR:AKL: Bring Well Managed Progress

The Unitary Plan: Bringing Change

Auckland: 2013 – OUR CITY, OUR CALL




4 thoughts on “Debunking Mixed Housing Zone Myths

  1. Um Ben, I have enjoyed reading some of your blogs but what is your actual point with this one? Are you saying that you “discovered” this information and Bernard Orsman has used it without paying for it? Or that people are idiots if they didn’t know this information already? Or that you’ve been telling people and no one noticed? I’m genuinely unsure.

    Bottom line: people do not know this information. If this is a genuinely consultative process the Council must be absolutely clear so people can give feedback on what is REALLY being proposed. We should be able to rely on the information summaries provided by council. As you know, none of the glossy printed material suggests three storeys in mixed housing zones. You have to dig – and understand planning speak – or read blogs like yours to find this detail. The vast majority of Aucklanders are not going to do that.

    I have made a point of reading sections of the Unitary Plan that I am concerned about – but trying to do this around a busy life raising three children has been a bloody mission – it’s out of the question for most people I know. And Generation Zero wonders why the meetings are full of “grey hair”. A huge middle section of the population – tax-paying, rate-paying, property-owning people with kids – just don’t have time to get to the bottom of this. And you know what? They get their information from the Herald.

    Sadly, those of us who have seen the councils screw up time after time after time are deeply cynical about this whole process.

    1. Quoting

      They get their information from the Herald.

      Sadly, those of us who have seen the councils screw up time after time after time are deeply cynical about this whole process.

      This is why I will go after Orsman and the Herald in debunking myths and similar situations. Because I know only too well the Herald can either sensationalise it or screw it up big time. Whether one is a Cameron Slater – Whale Oil fan is irrelevant but even he catches the Herald out time and time again on both charges.

      And I went after Orsman again today although I might be conceding I could of pushed it too far this morning. Most of what I wish to reply to is in the reply I left under John McCaffery’s comment in this thread.

      But in the same token, while I do not have kids yet I am running a business start up that consumes time and resources. I appreciate (I really do) the nature of Aucklanders’ being time pressed but I will not allow the MSM like the Herald to make assumptions or sensationalize a matter that has clearly upset the city – The Unitary Plan.

      The reason why I dedicated this blog then and now as I take it into the professional era was to provide as Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse has said “provide balanced commentary and alternatives into the Unitary Plan debate.” Not everyone will agree with my alternatives I do not expect them too. This will continue

      As for cynicism of the Council process; okay at 28 I am a spring chicken at this. Over over time I will face what you and the elders of the city have faced before and now with the Council.

  2. I think your comments are unfair Ben.The Herald artocle is aimed at the ordinary person who stil has no idea of the inplications of the proposed ZONING has for their properties and communities- Just tell the Council to go and sample a few communities -the first 10 people you meet ! The Mixed housing Zones and ALL Zones should have spelt out –
    1) What is permitted as of right
    2) What is permitted with resource consent Non Notified application and what this means and
    3) What can be resource consent Notified and may be approved – likely to be approved
    The material put out by COUNCIL DOES NOT DO THIS – NOR DID YOUR MATERIAL .
    We and all in our area of Sandringham do not want 3 story buildings in mixed zones where we now have single or two story houses covered by pre 1940s protection and we do NOT TRUST Councils non notification process or their comments that notification means notifying ONLY the neighbours actually on the BOUNDARY of the proposed development – This attempt by planners and Council to push the density limits to the fullest is really bad PR and bad Politics – AND may lead to a defeat of significant parts of the intensification UP altogether . Many people are fed up with having these proposals rammed down their throats- Understanding and having a fair say is central to any DEMOCRACY.

    We support intensification but have a look at the stupidity of just drawing lines on maps in A) Sandringham St Lukes where the lower Fowlds Ave and other streets already with two story flats and apartments are zoned single house zone – and all the current upper single pre-1940 houses and leafy streets in Sandringham heights from Haverstock Rd backing onto Mt Albert Rd Sandringham Rd area are Zoned Mixed housing ?

    Or Weymouth coastal area where the strategy says single house zones should be in coastal areas and Mixed houseing areas should not- BUT ALL of Weymoiuth is ZONED Mixed housing right to the Manukau Harbour waters edge – Wattle Downes is not- Karaka is not -Conifer Grove is not -BUT Weymouth is ? Any reasons ?

    Surely Local Special Zones as you have argued for are the way to go, rather than “painting time” by Council Planners on maps for which they appear to know little about the communities they are planning to radically reshape ? We all need your help and guidance as those who stand to gain a great deal from these changes are well informed and already wheeling and dealing-but lets not get into abusing those who seek to help the communities become more informed and active in the process – before it is too late and signed and sealed.

    1. At current speed this is going to trigger off another post covering the Unitary Plan as a whole. However, in regards to time and the fact I still need to complete my own submission before May 31 the time frame will be tight.

      I am trying to word this best I can as the matter of the UP is by far complex – that I know and also know others would struggle to grapple with.

      Currently someone is going through the rules and definitions of these zones in the UP to which I will do so shortly if not early next week. Yes it was buried deep in the Unitary Plan and needed about a couple of hours for even a planner to go fish out. But it brings home a truth that we all might have to face with the UP that I will mention shortly.

      I will concede to you John that the Mixed Housing Zone and its application is a total dog. Heavens I live in an area up for Mixed Housing in Papakura. I will also concede as well that the zones need reworking as well to which effect I have started on with several “projects” but need to tie it back over into the main over-arching submission.

      And I will most likely concede by tomorrow that I was overtly harsh on Orsman this time round with the post – in saying that it is not a total given. The point being that the UP has stirred up a deep passion this end and I should watch the emotions when entering a debate on the UP

      Surely Local Special Zones as you have argued for are the way to go, rather than ‚Äúpainting time‚ÄĚ by Council Planners on maps for which they appear to know little about the communities they are planning to radically reshape ? We all need your help and guidance as those who stand to gain a great deal from these changes are well informed and already wheeling and dealing-but lets not get into abusing those who seek to help the communities become more informed and active in the process ‚Äď before it is too late and signed and sealed.

      Thanks ūüôā
      Work is still going on with the Local Special Zones (Special Character Zones) with Orakei Local Board getting the allied planners to have a look at it. The other two methods; CMCP’s and SLPD’s which still hand planning back over to communities (just different execution methods) are being fleshed out again and will end up in my submission

      But it brings me to a truth that I mentioned earlier

      The UP is complex and needs a lot of simplifying. Nothing short of a total rewrite will achieve that and the Penny’s also know that as well. While I have reluctance with Councillors researching the UP and representing communities on the UP (owing to their slowness at the beginning to take up a leadership mantle) something needs to be done for the communities. It is the reason why I had set up a private consultancy firm was to work with communities in an apolitical environment on the Unitary Plan right through to and after formal notification in September.

      In the same regard I will scale back the attacks on Orsman unless he drops a clanger that does really need debunking…

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