Over the last few months we have tried to hold off discussing the unitary plan too much while the council worked through the feedback. Today the council will start the process of going through the changes to the plan so that it can finalised and ultimately notified so we will be having a look at some of the changes and how they might affect some of the outcomes of the overall plan.

We are going to start today with the residential zones. We had already seen a couple of fairly positive developments that have occurred over the intervening time period since the consultation period finished. In particular that the issues around building height had largely resolved by using a more fine grained approach. Another major concern was the extent of the mixed house zone. Some of this related to building height fears while a lot of it related to just straight out fear of change and a lack of understanding about what plans already existed. Once again a more fine grained approach has been adopted with the zone being split in two – like we and others had suggested in our feedback.  The split mixed housing zones are now known the Mixed Housing Suburban Zone and the Mixed Housing Urban Zone.

The key reason for proposing that the zone be split is that it appears that it was trying to do the job of two zones but doing each badly. In particular it squeezed out the options of a three storey terraced house – a building typology that has the potential to enable a lot of intensification without the negative issues that result from height discussions. The split zones address this by more specifically targeting parts of Auckland. There are two key differences between the two mixed housing zones which relate to building height and building density. The differences in these are shown below.

Original Mixed House Zone

  • Building height limit of 8m or can go to 10m with resource consent.
  • One dwelling per 300m² net site area where up to four dwellings are proposed
  • No density limits where there are more than five dwellings and certain conditions are met.

Mixed Housing Suburban Zone

  • Building height limit of 8m (two storeys)
  • Allows for one dwelling per 400m² net site area or
  • One dwelling per 300m² net site where certain conditions are met.
  • No density limits where there are more than five dwellings proposed and set conditions are met.

Mixed Housing Urban Zone

  • Allows for a high limit of 10m (three storeys)
  • Allows for one dwelling per 300m² net site area or
  • One dwelling per 250m² net site where certain conditions are met.
  • No density limits where there are more than five dwellings proposed and set conditions are met.

As you can see, the key differences in height and density are that the suburban zone retains the height limits but has larger sites (i.e. less dense) whereas the urban zone retains the site size but allows greater height (i.e. more dense). Sadly none of the changes seem to allow for the type of small scale subdivision talked about in this post from Patrick.

One of the key problems with this approach of splitting the zones though comes down to balancing where each of the zones are located. If you put too much of the suburban zone in place and not enough of the urban zone in then you reduce the overall capacity of an area meaning potentially growth has to go elsewhere or more greenfield land is required. Put too much of the urban zone in and you upset all of the silly groups like Auckland 2040 who will then fight the plan tooth and nail potentially delaying it for years.

As part of that balancing act the unlimited density controls when very specific conditions are met become even more important as a bit of a safety valve allowing for higher density when a development passes design controls that address key issues with intensification. But now even that that is under attack.

A controversial proposal to allow developers to build unlimited density housing in much of suburban Auckland is set to be rejected by Auckland councillors this week.

Councillor Ann Hartley is unhappy with the latest rules drawn up by council planners for the mixed housing zone, which caused the greatest alarm in public feedback on the draft Unitary Plan.

The latest rules allow for unlimited density in the zone, which has been split into two subzones – a three-storey height limit close to town centres and a two-storey height limit in the suburbs.

Ms Hartley was happy with the unlimited density rule in the so-called mixed housing urban zone, but said allowing unlimited density in the mixed housing suburban zone was unacceptable and undermined what councillors wanted.

She has drawn up 18 amendments to the rules for the mixed housing suburban zone for a three-day meeting of the Auckland Plan committee from tomorrow to wrap up the Unitary Plan for notification.

“I believe I have support to carry the amendments,” said Ms Hartley, a member of Mayor Len Brown’s inner circle.

As mentioned the whole purpose of the various design controls required to be completed to meet the criteria for unlimited density are there to ensure the various issues are fully addressed. Of course being an Orsman article about the unitary plan the 2040 group get plenty of space.

Richard Burton, spokesman for the Auckland 2040 movement set up to oppose haphazard development, supported the two subzones when they were proposed last month but said the devil would be in the detail.

Yesterday, Mr Burton said the planners were hijacking the process by trying to set the same unlimited density rules for both subzones.

He said the planners’ argument for providing enough capacity for growth was wrong because there was a lot of potential in more intensified zones around town centres.

As Richard says, the devil is in the detail. We know that the various local boards and councillors have been having numerous workshops to look at where each of the zones should sit but we will have to wait till new versions of the maps come out to see just how balanced they might be. However we can get a bit of an idea from this document. The maps show where some of the conflicts still exist between planners and local boards however the first one gives a good overview of much of the isthmus. It appears that the mixed housing urban zone has retained the beige colour from the original unitary plan maps while the suburban zone has a light yellow colour.

Unitary Plan Proposed New Zones

Compare that with what was originally proposed.

Unitary Plan Proposed Old Zones

You can see that within the isthmus there is almost no mixed housing urban zone with almost the entire previous mixed housing zone being converted to either the suburban zone or the single house zone. Some of the THAB zones appear to have been made slightly bigger but not but much and definitely not by enough to offset the reduction in zoning from using the suburban zone everywhere. Interestingly the only place you can really see any change in the other direction is in my local board, Henderson-Massey where you can see some quite substantial extensions to the THAB zone, especially on the Te Atatu Peninsula. Perhaps they are the only board to remember that this is a 30 year plan and that zoning for higher density doesn’t mean it will suddenly appear overnight.

These maps make it even more important that intensification is allowed through the unlimited density provisions if the right conditions are met. Without those provisions it will be impossible for Auckland to cater for the projected number of people the plan is meant to be designed for meaning even more growth will have to happen in greenfield land. Seriously if Anne Hartley and any other councillor that vote to remove this clause they should really give themselves an uppercut. Hell they and the local boards (Henderson-Massey excluded) should probably do that anyway for the shameful mapping exercise above.

Further it seems I’m not the only one concerned about this sudden lurch to a fear of change based on this press release from the NZ Institute of Architects.

NZIA Cautions Against Dilution of Draft Unitary Plan

As Auckland councillors head into a three-day meeting on the draft Unitary Plan the New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA) urges them to carefully consider the effect of any decisions that will dilute rules allowing for a more intensely populated city.

“We believe most Aucklanders agree with the Council’s position that growth largely within the existing urban boundary and around existing centres is far more desirable and sustainable than the alternative, which is a costly sprawl across the isthmus and into the countryside,” says Richard Goldie, chair of the NZIA’s Auckland branch.

“The Council has been careful to limit building heights in the mixed housing zone, with the trade-off being the possibility of more intensive use of building sites within the zone,” Goldie says.

“We think this strikes the right balance between a popular preference for lower buildings and the acknowledged need for more housing.”

The Council has put huge effort into producing the draft Unitary Plan, Goldie says, and rather than compromise its intent Councillors might be better to turn their attention to the issue of the quality of buildings within the mixed housing zone’s two ‘sub-zones’ – the mixed housing urban zone and mixed housing suburban zone.

“Community concerns about density are often really concerns about building quality. Auckland has many examples of well-designed and well-built medium-density housing, but unfortunately there is also a legacy of too many poorly planned apartment complexes.”

“The challenge for the Council, and for the construction sector – developers, architects and contractors – is to convince Aucklanders that intensive development does not mean mediocre buildings.”

“Work on intensification should go hand-in-hand with work on improving the quality of building design and construction,” Goldie says. “We think this should be a focus of Councillors’ attention.”

“The pressing issue for Auckland and for its Council is not how much building will be allowed in the mixed housing zone, but what standards are expected.”

We will be watching with interest what happens to the proposed residential zones.

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  1. I did enjoy reading the other pages of that report.

    “Local board recommended not building anything anywhere near anything”
    “Local board told to grow up”

    1. Those maps! My Eyes!

      Naw, those are ok.. although, if I *have* to complain, I do wonder why they’re low quality scanned versions up instead of the originals as PDF.

      Ah well, can’t have everything =D

  2. Hang about. As a Te Atatu resident, and as someone who submitted in favour of greater density (more around the town centre, less around the coast which is what they have shown in the new map), I am not going to stand by and watch a greater part of the city opt out and have our suburb developed past what the rest of Auckland is doing. All or nothing for the whole of Auckland.

    1. ReallyBryce? I would be the other way. I would actually be hapy if my community was getting that level of intensification and other areas wer getting less(assuming no sprawl increase). Your comment seems to imply that density is a negative.

      1. Me too, if I lived in a low-rise suburb I’d happily see it intensified and the associated benefits of a more active suburb along with the associated improvements of better PT and the ability to walk places.

        1. BBC, yes my thoughts exactly. However what would hack me off enormously is if those in non intensified areas insisted on major arterial roads so that they could speed through my suburb; and who knows what the people of Milford feel that they deserve.

        2. A motorway everywhere else, and quiet residential streets with 1 storey houses on 700m+ sections in Milford that are walled off to all ousiders. And low rates.

    2. Remember Bryce, if all the development starts happening out west where it is allowed and nowhere else due to restrictive rules (not saying this will happen), then council investment will need to follow. Could be an incredibly smart play by our local board. Put in the CRL and the Northwest Busway and watch those sites develop.

  3. With the intensification in theTe Atatu Peninsula they will be creating future bottlenecks with only one road in. Some day They may need to think about a way in from the Lincoln Rd interchange (by the refuse station) across that creek to Matipo Rd. Also the link across from Glendene to Rosebank.

    1. Or there could be a focus on moving people not vehicles, the AHB has seen a large increase in the number of people crossing but a drop in cars for this very reason. A focus on forms of rapid transit much more suited to the role.

    2. To me bus lanes on Te Atatu road at each intersection seems like a much better solution as well as being much cheaper.

      1. Bus lanes along Te Atatu Rd seem a no-brainer to me. The bus interchange will help as well. Residents are already concerned about traffic and it was the most prominent issue that I heard about. As for a bridge across to The Concourse – no way. It will turn a bunch of quiet streets into ‘rat runs’.

        1. Query: Te Atatu Peninsular was one of the few options identified for expansion of the ferry network that was deemed worthy of investment. Would work on getting a busway/bus priority in that area be a threat to a ferry stop there?

  4. If you invested a few billion into CRL, why would concentrate your development about Te Atatu Peninsula? Surely New Lynn, Glen Eden, Henderson, Sturges Rd, Sunnyvale would be the prime candidates?

  5. I can’t think of many cities that have the lowest densities near the centre! This is absolutely ridiculous – is there anyone we can vote for to come up with a more sensible plan?
    Everyone I know that has travelled or is under 35 understands that Auckland needs density in the central suburbs – surely that should make up a big enough voting block to stop this kind of nimbyism!
    Anyone want to start a ‘high density and public transport’ party?

  6. Density rule in Mixed Housing Suburban has been amended from 1/300m2 to 1/400m2.
    Under current rules you can have 1/375m2 if you’re in Res 6a (which for most parts will become MHS)
    How is going from 1/375 to 1/400 increasing density and what is the logic behind reducing current accepted density when you’re trying to increase density? Does anyone know the logic behind this?

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