National Policy Statement on Urban Development MK2: Transit Orientated Developments Present Opportunity

Reach for the sky!


So we have the Auckland Spatial Plan and the Auckland Unitary Plan that (or should) dictates that we need capacity for 422,000 new homes for a million more people by 2042 (I have not included the draft Auckland Plan 2050 as it is not operative and needs work still). Both Plans give indications of where that housing is to go along with its support structures including transport, bulk water/waste water, parks and employment centres. We also have from Auckland Transport and NZTA maps of where our strategic road, freight and transit networks are and will be invested in through to the end of the Auckland Plan 2042 that with a bit of luck overlays and matches up with the intentions of the Auckland Plan (it does) and the zones in the Unitary Plan (nearly there). That is where-ever we have a Rapid Transit Network line (Light Rail, the bus ways (Northern and soon Eastern) and heavy rail) and the Frequent Transit Network (the busses that run at least every 15 minutes all day every day) we have the opportunity for Transit Orientated Developments.


Unitary Plan New Dwellings
Source: Auckland Council


In short a Transit Orientated Development is where you have a transit station, stop or route and subsequent urban development would be geared up to maximise access and opportunity often within 800 metres of the station, stop or route. By maximise access and opportunity it often means allowing more intensified residential or commercial development than otherwise would be normally supported outside of an RTN or FTN system. 800 metres is the international standard used as that measures the 10 minute walk up catchment to a transit line.


Public transport RTN Proposal AP2050
Source: Auckland Plan


I have written on the transport and community building side of Transit Orientated Developments previously. In this post I am going to look at a Government policy through the Resource Management Act to encourage TOD’s to their full potential



Goal 2.7 of Manukau Framework Plan
Source: Panuku Development Auckland

The above shows the 800 metre radius from Manukau Rail (and soon bus and light rail) station and the potential for Transit Orientated Development within that 800m radius. Note to the left is the Wiri Industrial Complex so development potential there is smaller.


A National Policy Statement on Urban Development

I have commented before on the lousy National Policy Statement – Urban Development Capacity written by the last Government and it not doing Auckland much good at all (certainly has not with the Auckland Plan refresh currently underway).

In it I penned an alternative where:

A NPS Urban (Development) Growth has a two-step method unlike the NPS Urban Development Capacity which is a single step. The first step is like the Urban Development Capacity giving the theoretical maximums according to projects growth. The second step is where Urban Growth starts to kick in and is mentioned in the Regional Policy Statement. That second step being using levers available to either encourage or coerce development to get to that actual maximum capacity more quickly.

At Regional Policy Statement level that could be either Council moving faster with infrastructure, providing incentives for developers to develop more towards the maximum a zone allows than the developer would otherwise, or develop caveats through Panuku Development Auckland when Panuku partners with developers to develop public land at its maximum potential. An example would be Panuku attaching conditions to developers in developing a Council owned site in Manukau City Centre that “incentives” such a development to be mixed use and go the full 18 storeys allowed under the Metropolitan Centre Zone. Effectively going best bang for buck with a multi use 18 storey development on a plot of land inside Manukau City Centre.

The NPS Urban Growth at national level the Government become compelled to act as well as Councils as mentioned above. The Government in order to meet its own NPS Urban Growth must use its powers to make sure urban growth is not hindered at their end. This means infrastructure that Government provides must be provided ahead of time to encourage or facilitate urban growth. This is the opposite to an NPS Urban Development Capacity where Government would only move if that capacity was ever reached (and most likely not). Thus with an NPS Urban Growth the Government has to forward think and be proactive while a NPS Urban Development Capacity the Government is reactive. The NPS Urban Growth also compels the Minister of Finance to make sure they are using levers to make sure that urban growth is facilitated rather than hindered (so again the Government has to be proactive to prevent a stalling). In such a case to prevent land banking stalling urban growth (thus contravening the NPS Urban Growth) a Vacant Land Tax could be set into law to “encourage” development on blank land in existing urban areas.

With infrastructure the NPS Urban Growth could also compel the Government to make alternative infrastructure funding mechanism live so that the cost of infrastructure does not slow down urban growth needed for population growth. A NPS Urban Development Capacity would provide no such compulsion given the maximum may never be reached to trigger such a situation given infrastructure expense would often result in a development being down-scaled away from the maximum (a Catch 22 just about).

The NPS Urban Growth especially in high population growth could also compel Housing New Zealand to maximise its land use according to the zone the land sits on. Given Housing NZ is part of the State apparatus they are compelled as much as the Government is to adhere to the NPS Urban Growth unlike the private sector. That said Housing NZ is pushing for quite high density limits in Auckland so that they can maximise their land use with developments but there is no incentive from the Government right now to start a mass building program. An NPS Urban Growth could coerce the Government to undertake such a program via Housing NZ to accommodate urban growth caused by population growth.




The post continues with evidence presented to the Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel on the need to compel all sides to move on effectively urban development.



Reflecting on my NPS Urban Growth alternative idea above this could still be implemented by the Minister for the Environment David Parker (as the Resource Management Act sits with him) at the behest of the Minister of Transport, Housing and Urban Development Phil Twyford  as the master NPS for urban development right across the urban areas of our six large cities. This master NPS would be the trigger an enforcer of a subsequent NPS on urban development within 800 metres of a Rapid Transit Network Station or line and 400 metres of a Frequent Transit Network stop or line (e.g the 33 Great South Road bus from Papakura to Otahuhu).


This new and second National Policy Statement (NPS – Optimum Urban Development (Transit Orientated Developments) would compel the following with urban development within that 800/400m radius of a station, stop or line:

  • All density controls if present in the Unitary Plan for that particular zone are relaxed.
  • No Parking Minimums including all residential, Business Zone Centres and Business Zones Mixed Use zones. This includes residential, commercial retail, commercial service and commercial office development. Light and Heavy Industry Zones exempt.
  • No height controls and view shaft rules are relaxed. However, aeronautical restrictions continue to apply such as the flight approach paths to Auckland International Airport and Ardmore Aerodrome.
  • Zones: all residential zones within an 800 metre RTN station to be Terraced Housing and Apartment Zone while all residential zones within the 400 metre FTN stops are to be at minimum Mixed Housing Urban Zone. No changes or rezoning required for Mixed Use zone or any existing Centre Zones
  • All set back from road front restrictions relaxed

There are probably other restrictions in the Unitary Plan that could be relaxed but I will let those more up to play with the micro details of the AUP list those with their reasons.


Urban Design requirements especially those through the Auckland Design Manual would not be replaced with either NPS but rather beefed up so they can be more enforceable than now. Just because I have stripped out density, height and parking rules does not give a licence to go and then development crap. Just as we marvel at urban design pre car the same can be said post car as well. If anything removing the above restrictions and strengthening up our urban design potential and requirements would enhance intensified urban developments inside those 800/400m areas than we have now with existing auto-centric suburbia like Botany and Millwater.


See my Urban Design, Urban geography and Green utility vs the City Budget. A #CitiesSkylines Lesson post on how to maximise Green Utility especially with intensified TOD developments.


Green utility circle


None-the-less allowing more intensified urban developments around our transit stations, stops and lines would be one way of achieving the following aims:

  • Compact City (Auckland Plan)
  • 60:40 Brownfield vs Greenfield developments (Auckland Plan)
  • 422,000 homes (Unitary Plan)
  • Accessibility (draft Government Policy Statement)
  • Low Carbon (draft Government Policy Statement and the upcoming Zero Carbon Act)
  • Resilience (again the GPS)
  • Safety (from minimising road commuting) (also the GPS)
  • Equity (Auckland Plan mentions it)
  • Quality Urban Environment (draft Auckland Plan 2050 under Homes and Places)


So as Labour likes to say: #LETSDOTHIS


Looking east to west down Manukau Bus Station, Manukau Rail Station on far side under MIT building. A TOD was missed here