The Auckland Unitary Plan – Auckland Council’s revised rulebook

Prior to the merger of all the city councils in Auckland into one Auckland Council, each city council issued their own set of planning documents. By 2016, some were more than 20 years old and had been designed for a population of about 1 million.

The purpose of the Unitary Plan is to revise the previous plans and to consolidate it into one plan. Housing has been a hot topic among Auckland residents and one of the aims of the Unitary Plan was to continue to make Auckland a liveable city. In doing so, the Unitary Plan hopes to meet the housing objectives in Auckland.

What is the Unitary Plan?

The Unitary Plan determines:

  • what can be built and in which areas of the city they can be built
  • how to create a higher quality and more compact Auckland
  • how to provide for rural activities
  • how to maintain the marine environment.

What’s the most noticeable impact of the Unitary Plan?

Due to the larger population, the Unitary Plan allows for greater intensification of land use. This means the Unitary Plan encourages more apartments and terraced style housing. Certain areas in Auckland such as Manukau and Botany can have dwelling up to 18 storeys high. Housing density will be increased and this allows developers to build more dwellings on a site. For example, previously a developer may only be allowed to build up to 3 houses on a 1200 m2 site. When the Unitary Plan comes into effect, the developer may be allowed to put up 4 houses on the same site.

The Unitary Plan is likely to see more development in existing areas in Manukau, Botany, Lynnmall, Albany and Henderson. The Council gives an example of what a street in Manukau could look like.

Proposed Manukau concept

Other key improvements

Resource consent is no longer required for constructing one dwelling per site, as long as it complies with the other development controls and zoning controls (eg the dwelling must not exceed maximum height;  there is enough landscaping; and building coverage complies with the regulations).

Resource consents will be required for two or three dwellings per site and this is a discretionary activity. This means if you plan to build two or three townhouses on your site, you have to submit a resource consent. The council can consider a number of factors (including impact on the environment, impact on transportation, or impact on parking) before deciding whether to grant you consent.

Maximum Building Height

For the remainder of this post, we will look at the Unitary Plan’s section on zoning and building height.

The Unitary Plan aims to have 6 categories of residential zones:

  1. Single House Zone (allows you to build one house on a lot)
  2. Mixed Housing Surburban zone (allows more dwellings on one site and you can build up to two storeys)
  3. Mixed Housing Urban zone (allows more dwellings on one site and you can build up to 3 storeys)
  4. Terrace housing and Apartment buildings zone (allows for high density apartments and terrace housing)
  5. Large Lot residential zone (generally concerns the lifestyle blocks)
  6. Rural and Coastal settlement zone (applies to areas like parts of Rodney)

Of particular interest, is the rules concerning the maximum height.

The Unitary Plan has separated metropolitan centres from town centres. Metropolitan centres tend to have a large shopping centre, lots of local business activity, and are generally well serviced by public transport. Metropolitan centres include Albany, Botany, Henderson, Manukau and New Lynn, Sylvia Park, Takapuna, Newmarket, Westgate and Massey North. The maximum heights in the metropolitan centres start from 10 metres (Sylvia Park). Builders in Newmarket and Westgate can build up to 32.5 metres (8 storeys). Developers in areas like Albany, Botany, and Henderson can build up to 72.5 metres (that’s 18 storeys).

Town centres include Panmure, Pakuranga, Onehunga, Remuera, Royal Oak, Newton, Upper Symonds Street. The maximum height for these areas usually range from 16.5 metres (4 storeys) to 48.5 metres (12 storeys).

The table below shows a more detailed overview of the maximum height controls for metropolitan centre zones.

Auckland unitary plan - height control

There was some opposition to the new height limits especially areas where developers can build up to 72 metres but the Auckland Council explained the height limits had taken into account a number of factors such as how developed each region was, the current building heights, landscape features, transportation and existing development rules.

More information can be found at the Auckland Council website.

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