No Density Rules to be Reinserted Back Into The Unitary Plan #AKLPols

Although Can Auckland 2040 can claim credit for this?

Coming across the wires this  morning is a report from Radio New Zealand’s Todd Niall that density restrictions for the two Mixed Housing Zones in the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan could be removed.

From Radio NZ:

Auckland Council brings back higher density plans

Todd Niall, Auckland Correspondent –

One of the most contentious plans for high density housing in Auckland’s suburbs is back on the agenda.

The Auckland Council and a community lobby group are moving closer to agreement on the idea of having no limits on the number of dwellings that could be built on larger suburban sites.

It was an idea dumped at the last minute two years ago, by councillors finalising the draft of the city’s development blueprint, the Unitary Plan.

The proposed plan is now being considered by an Independent hearings panel, and a new mix of councillors elected since the last decision have backed the staff’s enthusiasm for the idea.

The council says it achieves the key goals of providing a wide range of housing styles, and keeping rules simple for developers.

In general terms, it means in the Mixed Housing Urban zone, next to Town Centres, and making up 9 per cent of residential Auckland, there would be no limit to the number of dwellings on a site.

There would be rules about the scale and form of buildings, and the council could ensure good design. Height limits would remain unchanged at around three storeys.

In the biggest zone, Mixed housing Suburban, which makes up 51 per cent of residential Auckland, the new approach removes density controls on sites bigger than 1000 square metres. A two-storey height limit remains.

The no-density concept had been prized by council planning staff and some developers in 2013 as a way of increasing the mix of homes that could be built on a single site.

Instead of standard cookie-cutter style large townhouses, a development could include three-bedroom townhouses through to studios without garages for the elderly or students.

But it was dumped when councillors led by the later-ousted Ann Hartley and the mayor Len Brown pushed through a more conservative compromise in the final council meeting before the 2013 elections.

One opponent of some elements of the draft plan in 2013 was a group called Auckland 2040. It claims credit for reviving the no-density idea during informal discussions run by the Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel.

2040’s spokesperson Richard Burton said what was still to be agreed are the rules controlling no-density developments.

“So people in the residential areas can have a degree of certainty as to what form and scale of development will occur in their area, and that’s more important to them than how many dwellings exist in a street,” he said.

Deputy mayor Penny Hulse said one of the reasons the idea failed in 2013 was that decisions were being made during an election campaign.

“For some of us we’ve been working in that field for a very long time and are more comfortable with it. I think some councillors just found the pressure too much and did support the watering down of the plan. Sometimes that’s just democracy in action.”

The council revived the no-density approach saying it found that the alternative of having prescriptive rules would not have delivered the same number, mix and quality of homes.

There is s still some way to go: the various groups will discuss the issue in mediation next month prior to formal hearings before the panel in October to resolve any outstanding detail.

The panel’s decision will be known next year, some months before the 2016 local body elections.



The audio file can be listened to here:

From what came out of the initial workshops (Residential Zones Provisions Workshop (Unitary Plan) Out (Yes Clunky was Mentioned) and the Interim Guidance on the Regional Policy Statement – Urban Growth ( there is appetite amongst the big submitter, smaller submitters like myself, and the Hearings Panel to see great extents of intensification across the Residential Zones.

The ‘No Density’ rule being reinserted for Mixed Housing Urban and Suburban Zones goes some length in achieving that but with height controls still in place it is still a lot of low density stuff.

Without new zones or the expansion of the Terraced Housing and Apartment Zone we will continue to miss out on ‘true’ intensification and housing choices as seen here: What is Missing From the Unitary Plan – Residential Zones? UPDATED

residential-transitional-for-unitary-plan Source: Brent Toderian
Source: Brent Toderian

Still I don’t quite think Auckland 2040 can claim credit at all with this latest development as they are claiming. Not if other submitters were already pushing for it, the Council always wanting it, and the Hearings Panel through their Interim Guidance giving a big whopping hint that it would be a good idea (further intensification in the Residential Zones).

None the less Auckland 2040 did bring forth the idea of amenity controls rather than prescriptive controls for developments in the Residential Zones thus allow more flexibility. If Auckland 2040 do hold to wanting those controls and they get brought through into the Unitary Plan without causing impediments then THAT they can claim credit to.

In the meantime the mediation for the Residential Zones begins on Monday with the Hearings due to start in October.

3 thoughts on “No Density Rules to be Reinserted Back Into The Unitary Plan #AKLPols

  1. I don’t live in Auckland and am not that familiar with the detail of the Unitary Plan. But I looked at the Council’s marked up changes and thought that they were getting rid of density controls full stop in those zones, even for sites less than 1200m2, as they have struck through the density rules in the density section. Maybe I’m missing something? After all, the plan is full of gobbly gook and I only had a quick look.

  2. not sure I agree with your comment that by not extending the THAB zone we will miss out on true intensification. Yes, apartment developments achieve a higher number of dwellings per hectare but terraced housing developments can be just as effective (achieving densities of up to 60-80 dwellings per hectare) and will result in far greater social benefits than five storey apartment blocks – London’s urban grid and urban environment attest to this.

    1. I think the point that will come out of this is that the THAB and MHU zone are too crude to achieve that “Missing Middle” I picked up from Brent Toderian. Thus in my submissions I replaced the four residential zones in the UP and created 7 new ones to allow better refinement but still allowing wide housing choices across the City.

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