Rebirth of the Mall: Are Council Planners Selling Us Short via the Unitary Plan? #AKLPols

New proposed large tower risks debunking proposed provisions of the Unitary Plan Metropolitan Centres already

I was reading the Herald this morning and its top leading story is this:

New super mall: shop till you drop

North Shore next in line for super mall as local demand grows despite online buying.

Concept plans have emerged for a mega-mall at Takapuna’s Shore City, topped by 360 apartments in 18-storey and 30-storey glass towers with plants cascading off the sides.

After this week’s news of Auckland’s 2.7ha $160 million NorthWest mall opening in Massey on October 1, prospective plans for the Shore site show 9.6ha of floorspace, equivalent to about 12 rugby fields – although much of that is the apartments.

As well as the North Shore and west Auckland developments, Tiffany and Chanel are coming to Britomart in central Auckland and Precinct Properties will soon knock down and upsize the CBD’s Downtown mall.

Across the city, retail centres are being bought, sold, built and expanded in a surge of deals worth $1 billion-plus.

Experts say local malls are expanding on the back of growing demand for shopping, despite global fears that the rise of online retailing would kill them off.

“People want to go and participate in society,” said Campbell Barbour, chairman of the Council of Shopping Centres and general manager of retail developer NZ Retail Property Group, which owns the land where NorthWest is rising.

“Retail has gone way beyond just wanting to buy, but it’s also to do with food, hospitality and entertainment,” he said.

“People like people and while I find the internet is an excellent place to become informed, aware and be product-aware, the joy of purchasing and being assisted personally is worthwhile and people enjoy it. People go to shopping centres to recreate, to people-watch, mix and mingle.”

University of Auckland Associate Professor in clinical psychology Ian Lambie said malls were appealing to people who led busy lives because they were easy and accessible.

“It’s a very easy and convenient way of shopping and people like things to be easy and accessible,” he said.


Full article:

I have noted before in June that the mall seems to be going through a rebirth: Rebirth of the American Mall, And Auckland

But what got my attention straight away was the 30 storey (120metres) tower proposed in Takapuna given what is working its way through the Unitary Plan processes. You see Takapuna like Manukau currently have unlimited height restrictions (overlays still apply like flight paths) but will be knocked back to 18 storeys or 72.5 metres.

From Council’s Primary Evidence on the 18 storey limit applying to the Metropolitan Centres:

  1. Trevor Stewart Mackie on behalf of Auckland Council stated:
    1. Metropolitan Centre unlimited height, increase height limit, reduce height limit, retain
    2. Submitter requests
      1. 10.34. Submissions sought deletion of the height control or unlimited height in the Metropolitan Centres. Reasons given are that: the taller the better, by increasing the number of residences and reducing the need for transport options with people living on or at their workplace; the PAUP has effectively down-zoned from existing Business 3 zone (inferred Takapuna), which will stifle development; we currently have one of the least densely populated cities, to grow we need to focus on building up, not out; we will not get the desired outcome for our city if we bow down to the anti-development and anti-progress lobby groups; and unlimited height is necessary for major satellite cities outside the CBD. Patrick Fontein (6282-7) seeks acknowledgement that the Metropolitan Centres have had their building height and development potential reduced, and considers that the PAUP falls short of the intensification targets.
      2. 10.35. Louis Mayo (4797-99) is seeking a 96m (24 storey) height limit in the Metropolitan Centres. Cooper and Associates (6042-35) seek a 30 storey limit. Nationwide Properties Limited and Estate David Berryman (1125-1) seek a reduction in the height limit to 50m. Other submissions 27 seek retention of the notified provision for height, as the zone reflects the operative plan provisions which enable a variety of activity supporting the transport network. Hartwig Clasen (5219- 46) sought a reduction in height limits in the Metropolitan Centres except for Newmarket, to avoid high rise buildings affecting the character and living quality of Auckland.
    3. Discussion
      1. 10.36. In introducing the 72.5m height limit there is a reduction for part of Takapuna, and for parts or all of other areas that had unlimited height in the legacy plans. Takapuna Area C (or Sub-precinct C) had theoretically unlimited height but was constrained by a floor area ratio (gross floor area limited to 3.5 times the area of the site), HRB controls applying from the nearest residential zone boundary, and could have a tower footprint of only 40% of its site area. The proposed Takapuna 1 precinct controls theoretically allow unlimited height but have a 6:1 FAR control. There are also constraints on height and resource consents for tall structures in other centres. There has been little uptake in the unlimited height provisions for Takapuna, Mangere, Manurewa, Otara, Pakuranga, Papatoetoe, Te Atatu North, Albany, Botany, Henderson, Manukau, Glen Eden and Highland Park. That is not a reason on its own to introduce a height limit, as there have been resource consent applications and a few taller buildings constructed. The PAUP does not have a floor area ratio control limiting development, and the height-in-relation-to-boundary control now only applies up to 30m from a residential or public open space zone boundary.
      2. 10.37. 72.5m as a zone-wide control is not particularly limiting in my opinion, considering greater height is a restricted discretionary activity. I consider it reasonable to assess potential effects of visual amenity, bulk dominance and shading from the upper parts of such taller buildings, individually as well as cumulatively as the centres grow, as well as landscape and landmark effects.
    4. Conclusion

10.38. In my opinion the 72.5m height development control should be retained in Metropolitan Centres. In some cases it will be overridden by overlay or precinct height provisions, or by restricted activity resource consent for taller buildings.


Link and source will be through my Primary Evidence embedded at the bottom of this post.

Also this from Council’s Primary Evidence in regards to the Manukau Super Metropolitan Centre but also applies to the Metropolitan Centres:

  1. Matthew Bonis on behalf of Auckland Council stated:
    1. 9 As I understand the submission, the key point of difference between the proposed zone and the Metropolitan Centre zone is unlimited height in the former. In my view the Metropolitan Centre zone enables significant growth and intensification above existing levels of development and also allows an unlimited scope for commercial activities. If the Panel considers the height limits in the Metropolitan Centre zone too restrictive then this can be amended, without the need for a new zone. I do not consider that a new zone of the type described is necessary at this stage of Auckland’s development.


  1. Yes I agree with Mr Bonis on his point[1]that the Metropolitan Centres do enable significant growth and (in theory) unlimited scope for commercial activities. The two key differences between the Super Metropolitan Centres and the Metropolitan Centres are geography and the Objectives and Policies which reflect the characteristics of the Super Metropolitan and Metropolitan Centres.
  2. Where Mr Bonis states “If the Panel considers the height limits in the Metropolitan Centre zone too restrictive then this can be amended, without the need for a new zone[2]”, looking at the evidence Mr Mackie provided on behalf of Council in regards to height for the Metropolitan Centres[3], I take a neutral position on whether the Independent Unitary Plan Hearings Panel decides to lift any height restrictions on the eight Metropolitan Centres not proposed to become Super Metropolitan Centres[4]. Again for absolute certainty my neutrality is framed around those two key differences between the Super Metropolitan Centre and the Metropolitan Centre.
  3. However, I do urge caution where Mr Bonis in Point 52. (in italics) did state “without need for a new zone” as while the Super Metropolitan Centres do call for unlimited height the entire concept around the Super Metropolitan Centre is just not around height. Again the Super Metropolitan Centres have different geographies thus different Objectives and Policies better suited to them. Two examples of those (different) Objectives/Policies only found with the Super Metropolitan Centres[5]:
    1. To serve as complementary to the main City Centre Zone in servicing core parts of the region (Manukau serving Southern Auckland and arguably the northern Waikato, and Albany in time serving the North Shore, Rodney and Northland), as well as reflecting the linear Geography from Auckland.
    2. For Manukau Super Metropolitan Centre: Support for the social policy initiatives and approach reflected in the broader Manukau Community and the opportunities the Manukau City Centre derives to support these policies


Link and source will be through my Primary Evidence embedded at the bottom of this post.


I provided some reference material on the Super Metropolitan Centres to give a brief summary on the key differences of it and the Metropolitan Centres which Council Planners seem to struggle to differentiate.


In any case that 30 storey (120 metres) tower in Takapuna quickly debunks both Mackie’s call on needing the 18 storey limit on some of the Metropolitan Centres and Bonis’s main rebuttal point that Auckland’s current stage of development does not warrant both unlimited height and the need for the Super Metropolitan Centre.

What the Herald article quickly points out is the amount of development occurring across the City Centre, Isthmus, North Shore and the north-west backed by industrial and population growth of the South already happening at THIS stage let alone future stages.

Thus it can be concluded that Council and its planners are being both timid and selling us short in the Unitary Plan despite what is already happening to prove to the contrary.

Time for Council to allow the Unitary Plan actually be an enabling document rather than a disabling one as the current provision would allow from next year.

Ben Ross 1606.2 Centres Zones 051 Primary Evidence

Reference Link: Should the Auckland Regional Policy Statement – Urban Growth factor in the rise of Waikato Satellites and them commuting into Auckland?

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