Unitary Plan is Working. Also (As a Pleasant Surprise) Urban Development Occurring Around Rapid Transit Network – BUT I HAVE QUESTIONS!

Age of City Building well under way


When the Unitary Plan went live in November 2016 I commented that 2017 onward’s would become The Age of the City. Looking at the latest Consenting data from Auckland Council it seems I was right.

We have truly entered the Age of the City (despite a few set backs that pop up on the transport side of the City Building coin) and (rather pleasantly) surprised around the amount of development occurring around the heavy rail corridor and the Northern Busway (our existing Rapid Transit Network). This prompts the question of how we handle developments around the upcoming Rapid Transit lines – mainly the two Airport Lines, and North West Light Rail to Kumeu.


From Auckland Council:

Auckland experiencing urban housing surge

Published: 7 August 2018

The Auckland Unitary Plan is having a major impact on the city’s development with consents for residential housing within existing urban areas surging to new highs.

New figures, presented to Auckland Council’s Planning Committee today, shows that total dwellings consented in the 10 months to May 2018 are up 27 per cent compared to the same period the year before.

About 90 per cent of the growth in new dwelling consents is within the existing urban (or brownfields) area, in places that the Auckland Unitary Plan identified for a significant increase in housing choices.

Overall, over 60 per cent of total growth is planned to take place in existing brownfields areas.

Mayor Phil Goff says it’s clear that the Auckland Unitary Plan is a success and is delivering major change for Auckland’s future development.

“I welcome the 27 per cent increase in new dwellings consented in Auckland. It is helping bridge the shortfall of houses needed to cater for our rapid population growth.

“New dwellings consented to June this year have reached 12,300, the highest since September 2004. The Auckland Unitary Plan enables in excess of one million potential new dwellings to be built with recent estimates suggesting around 340,000 are commercially feasible.

“The Unitary Plan is helping deliver a more compact city ensuring Aucklanders are living closer to transport links, employment centres and public amenities,” said Phil Goff.

Planning Committee Chair, Councillor Chris Darby says: “In less than two years since the Unitary Plan was adopted, we’re now seeing the market responding to the need for more housing in existing urban areas. This is reversing the trend for building predominately in greenfield areas of the last seven years.

“People want to live in connected communities and are choosing to live closer to rapid transit with better access to jobs, schools and amenities such as parks and shops that brownfield areas provide.”

More development close to bus and rail

The report also reveals that around 40 per cent of all new consents are on the existing train and northern busway network.

“There is a strong case for more investment in rapid public transit, including rail, light rail and busways, to provide people with greater access to frequent and efficient transport services. This is becoming an important factor for people when choosing where they want to live.

“While land is cheaper in rural areas on the outskirts of the city, providing the infrastructure necessary to support developments in these areas is expensive, as are the added costs of traveling further to jobs and other services and facilities,” says Councillor Darby.

Auckland Unitary Plan’s impact on residential housing growth
  • Brownfield areas dominate conents growth: 90 per cent of all growth in new dwellings consented in the 10 months to May 2018 is in existing urban areas.
  • A move away from rural development: The share of total new dwellings consented in brownfield areas in the 10 months to May 2018 has grown from 62 to 69 per, reversing a trend towards greenfields development over the past seven years.
  • Greater housing choices: Terraced houses and apartments are now 54 per cent of all new dwellings consented, compared to 37 per cent two years ago, prior to the Auckland Unitary Plan.
  • Urban areas are becoming compact: In the urban area around 66 per cent of new dwellings are multi-unit housings, consistent with the Auckland Unitary Plan goals.
  • More homes consented close to vital transport routes: Around 40 per cent of all new consents are on the existing train and northern busway network. The market response in housing supply is strongest in the city centre, and in centres that are connected by rail and busways.

The full report, Impacts of the Unitary Plan on residential development, is available on the Planning Committee agenda.


Source: Our Auckland

The Unitary Plan is working as intended which is excellent news. Transport we still have problems with from Auckland Transport despite the rhetoric coming from their leadership. Rhetoric I take with a grain of salt when they say we believe in transit et al but we still have “flow” as priority one (widening Botany Road being the latest example). When the leadership has also mused that they do not see the value of Transit Orientated Developments then questions will be asked very quickly on why!

An artist’s impression of the planned Parramatta Light Rail at Church St, Parramatta. Source: The Daily Telegraph

Transport aside the trend to develop around the existing heavy rail and busway corridors does prompt a few questions:

  1. How are we designing these to factor in Transit Orientated Development around the Rapid Transit Network (existing) corridor
  2. How are we designing these to factor in Transit Orientated Development around the proposed Rapid Transit Network corridors – mainly the two Airport Lines
  3. How are the Metropolitan Centres going (in terms of more development) given seven of the ten of them sit on the Rapid Transit corridors (with the other three to be soon connected)
  4. Does Auckland Transport have the capability with TODs? (that is different to whether leadership see the value of TOD’s) and more to the point does NZTA (the answer to the question is a premised NO. That is we do not have boots on the ground in great numbers yet however, more are being called in to fill the holes)


I might file an Official Information Act request to Council, Auckland Transport and NZTA on this to see how this one pans out.


Transit Orientated Developments via Cities Skylines


5 thoughts on “Unitary Plan is Working. Also (As a Pleasant Surprise) Urban Development Occurring Around Rapid Transit Network – BUT I HAVE QUESTIONS!

  1. Housing affordability comes primarily from the cost of land which is determined by how land is zoned. How the AUP has decided to zone the land is the main reason for the high cost of housing.

    1. Land will always be high – we live in a City environment and it has competing uses. Could always do what Japan does and have the basic zone and you can chop up residential and commercial land as required and make owning a car illegal unless you have an off street park

      1. To say, ‘Land will always be high’, is a meaning less statement. Yes it is higher from the city center out towards the periphery and that is true in every city worldwide, but the question to be asked, is why many cities, who also ‘live in a City environment and it has competing uses,’ are just as or more livable and at the same time are far more affordable. And the answer is the AUP zoning rules.

        And yes, why does the council allow developers to build apartments with no car parks and then allow then to be sold to people who have cars and park them on the street? To allow developers to do this is making the ratepayer subsidize the cost of the car parking.

  2. Hi Ben

    If you read the press release from Auckland city about this report, you would get the impression the AUP is working like it should.

    The report also has a summary of fndings at the start of it:

    I have given an alternative summary using the same data:

    New Summary of findings using same report:

    • Consented Dwellings quarterly average has dipped by three per cent in early 2018.
    • Housing affordability in March 2018 is 4.7 per cent less affordable compares to 2006
    • Geographical distribution of relatively affordable properties happening in Western and Southern Wards, ie not in CBD.
    • Surge in number of residential sales range between $600,000 and $800,000 from January to March 2018. (Report authors state, ‘whether this surge is a function of dwellings becoming less expensive or is it related to the increase in number of small dwellings are sold, is yet to be better understood’).
    • Despite the flattened sales price, only six out of all 21 local board areas in Auckland have seen average sales prices below $750,000 during January and March 2018

    The Auckland City Councils press release did not mention the word affordability once. And even thought summary says with house prices are dropping and with interest rates decreases, houses are more affordable, it makes no mention that higher LVR’s make housing less affordable, or the drop in prices could be because of smaller house sizes. But besides what the summary says, the report says houses are less afford.

    If Auckland City Council want’s to promote the success of the AUP, then they also have take credit for for it’s failure to achieve truly affordable housing.

    The question they need to ask themselves, is how come other jurisdictions can achieve better outcomes with livability, transport, growth etc. and have truly affordable housing.

    1. Auckland City Council has not existed since 2010.

      In any case the Unitary Plan was not and never designed to be the be all end all in affordable housing, it is a tool alongside the Auckland Plan, transport and whatever the RBNZ decides to pull.

      However, the Unitary Plan has set the zones and Brownfield developments are beginning to intensify with confidence increasing on what the zones allow. If there was a problem it will be on the Building Consent side – something the Unitary Plan has no control over as it is an RMA document.

      Affordability comes from Central Government whether they are doing a mass building program, financing infrastructure, or flooding the economy with Public Credit so the construction section has a secure line of credit given Private Credit is drying up again.

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