In recent weeks the Herald would have you believe that the council bogeymen are about to turn up on your doorstep in the middle of the night and force you to turn your house into a “highrise” three storey terraced house or apartment – note: even just using the terms three storey and high-rise together is utter stupidity. They’ve been ratcheting up the hysteria after they learned the council was looking at making changes to the zonings in the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP) currently being heard by a government appointed independent panel.

Before going any further it’s worthwhile giving a quick recap of what’s been happening.

  • In 2010 the government amalgamated the eight Auckland councils into one body. One of the rationales was to address inconsistencies in planning across the region. The new council was also required to come up with a 30-year vision for the region, which became known as the Auckland Plan and was adopted by the council in 2012.
  • As each of the former councils had their own rules around what could be built, and how, the next step was to turn that long-term vision into reality. To do that, the council needed to shift the city to a single RMA-compliant planning rulebook – a Unitary Plan. Traditionally with district plans councils propose them, get feedback and they then go through a hearings process, with some appeals potentially going to the Environment Court. In early 2013 the council took the step of releasing a draft version of their plan to get early feedback – they had over 21,000 pieces of feedback covering over 100,000 individual points. One of the reasons I think they got so much feedback was that the Herald drove a lot of hysteria around it – much like we’ve seen again recently – through deliberately deceitful and one-sided reporting. This also led to the creation of groups opposing it like Auckland 2040.
  • Following the consultation and analysis of the submissions on the draft plan, the Council made a number of changes before launching the formal PAUP in late 2013. Importantly the councillors who decided on what it should contain did so just a few months before the 2013 local body elections, and as such the original plan was watered down a bit following the hysteria that had been generated. The PAUP was then open to submissions which would be part of the formal hearings process. They received 9,400 submissions and 3,800 further submissions on the plan.
  • The government, through special legislation, allowed for a slight fast-tracking of the normal RMA process which otherwise could have dragged the process out to 7 or 8 years (based on other district planning changes). The process meant that the hearings panel would hear submissions and review the evidence before making recommendations on the plan. Any aspects the council agreed with would be implemented, while any they didn’t agree with would be subject to normal RMA process and appeals.

That brings us up to now. As part of the hearings process the council are allowed to make a final submission in response to the issues raised by the public. They say they are currently confirming their position on a range of topics and one of those is zoning. Taking into account a range of factors, the council is suggesting some changes to the zones in the plan that determine what can be built where. It’s these changes which have had the Herald and a number of councillors worked up. The factors include

  • the submissions and evidence
  • the interim guidance on some topics from the hearings panel – such as on viewshafts and heritage controls
  • further analysis of the zones i.e. fixing inconsistencies
  • amended infrastructure plans such as the addition of light rail on the isthmus

Now you may have seen reports a few days ago that the mayor quashed a motion by Councillor Dick Quax signed by eight other councillors calling for the public to be allowed to submit on the changes the council are making. It’s being presented by some as the council working to some sort of sneaky agenda, but as explained above is actually just the council effectively having their right of reply in the process. To allow submissions on that would not only go against the RMA process, but would only serve to delay the Unitary Plan process, increasing costs and leaving it longer before we have a coherent plan affecting the ability to improve the supply of housing.

So what is the council actually proposing? The reality is there aren’t that many changes overall, and even less when you look at what is allowed in each zone. For housing there are five different zones across Auckland which are briefly explained below.

  • Large Lot zone – As the name suggests this is very large sites, and is often only found near the edge of the city.
  • Single House zone (SH) – Again as the name suggests this is for a single house, up to two storeys, on a site that is a minimum of 600m²
  • Mixed Housing Suburban zone (MHS) – This allows for up to two-storey terraced houses on sites and given some of the other controls means they would tend to have a very similar bulk and scale to the single house zone. It also allows for the likes of granny flats on sites. I’d say a common use theme in these zones will be single houses on ~300m² sections
  • Mixed Housing Urban zone (MHU) – Very similar to above. The main change is that it allows for up to three storey terraced houses; however, importantly, it is is still subject to rules such as height in relation to boundary.
  • Terrace Housing and Apartment Buildings zone (THAB)- This represents a more significant shift than the zones above. Feedback from developers said it wasn’t viable to build four-storey apartments due to the step change in costs (lifts, fire systems etc. become needed), and as such the proposed THAB zones would be ineffectual. As a result, the council are upping the height limit in THAB zones from 4-7 storeys to 5-8 storeys.

All of the height limits are of course maximums, so someone could build a one-storey cottage if they wanted. The changes also don’t have an impact on other controls such as height in relation to boundary, site coverage etc.

A summary showing the impact of the changes to the zoning is shown below. As you can see there’s been roughly a 6% shift in housing now becoming Mixed Housing Urban while there’s a similar shift out of single house. While the numbers are similar, it’s not a case of shifting the Single House areas to MHU. As I understand, for most properties that do have change, it’s just a single step, e.g. some Single House areas have become MHS, and some MHS areas have become MHU.

PAUP zoning changes - Dec 15 2

So based on this around 77% of Auckland’s residential land will be capped at two storeys with another 17% capped at three storeys. That’s hardly turning the city into high-rise Hong Kong.

On to the maps themselves. The changes to the council’s submission won’t be finalised till next month, but they’ve decided to release them now so people can see them. Helpfully they’ve also included the original maps to be able to compare with. It’s worth noting that the new maps haven’t been loaded up to the council’s GIS viewer yet. The city has been split into 43 different areas to make it more manageable for people. I’ll only show a few examples for this post.

You can see the changes made in the ‘Preliminary Position’ maps as they have a blue or black border around them. If I’ve understood correctly, the black borders represent changes in relation to submissions or issues raised during the hearings. The blue borders are where no submission has been received but the council think the zoning needs to change to fix inconsistencies in the map.

Below are a couple of examples from areas where there has been strong opposition to providing a range of housing options.

Western Isthmus

This area was one of the most controversial for us, as despite its relative proximity to town and decent public transport, much of the area was locked up in the single house zone. You can see quite a bit of change along some of the corridors where light rail is planned, especially on Sandringham and Manukau Rds – by and large reflecting some of what’s there now. Another big change you can also see that most of the area to the South West of SH20 has gone from single house to MHS. In some cases I could also see some down-zoning from MHU to MHS – such as along Rosebank (not in this picture).

PAUP zoning changes - Dec 15 - Western Isthmus


You can see sprinklings of upzoning from SH to MHS or MHS to MHU but nothing significant. In some case the changes in zoning really just reflect some of the built form that’s there now.

PAUP zoning changes - Dec 15 - Takapuna-Millford

I’d urge you to go to the council’s website to have a better look at the maps (at the bottom)

As expected many of the changes seem sensible and nothing to be alarmed about, and the rants of the Herald and others seem to once again be completely misplaced. Rather than scaremonger around the height of buildings (which aren’t even high), it would be much better if the Herald could lead a conversation about how we ensure new buildings have good design that complements the area. A set of well designed three storey terraced houses could have less impact than a poorly designed two storey single house.

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    1. It would be even better if the Herald lead a conversation about the tradeoff between restrictive planning rules and out of control housing costs. Design is an important detail but generational inequality is more important.

      1. Completely agree. Those who oppose these kinds of zoning changes are effectively saying “we dont want our children’s generation to live in our suburb”.

        I mean 3 storeys!!! For flying out proud.

  1. The draft unitary plan was a dog. It was one of the worst plans i have ever seen in working 20 years in the environimental industry. It was cobbled together in a rush by a bunch of planners who did not consult there technical experts. Council technical staff who I have talked too where very unhappy about it. I am not talking about the zoning rules but the whole plan itself.

    One of reasons for the large number of objections were the high number of errors in the plan. It was no just lobby groups worried about three story housing. I think it is a little bit disingenuous to portray the NZ herald is all to blame. I agree with you 100% that the herald reporting has been one sided and the reporting standard in that newspaper is not as good as it once was. But the plan had problems and it was rushed though too fast to meet a central government dead line. Some of the concerns about it were real.

    1. The Auckland Council has been well and truly played by the Government on this.

      One of the largest, if not the largest, submitter to the Unitary Plan was Housing NZ on behalf of the Government who cynically requested upzones for hundreds of individual properties all over the central isthmus.

      The Council knew they wouldn’t be able to justify upzoning individual propeties so they upzoned entire areas surrounding those properties on the vague justification of providing “consistency”.

      The result is the Government now has a property portfolio instantly worth hundreds of millions (if not billions) of $ more, what will follow is those properties will be sold to developers.

      Anyone who thinks this process will result in more affordable housing is deluded.

      1. As is shown above so little up zoning has actually occurred so it is hard to see conspiracy or be upset about how these tiny changes came about. Furthermore why wouldn’t we want HNZ to be able use the property it owns on our behalf to more efficiently and be able to provide more dwelling for their tenants?

        As Auckland desperate needs up zoning for every reason from environmental to productivity increase, to more efficient use of public money [rates] what is the source of your anger? Please explain the disaster that a terrace might bring?

        1. Not resistant to intensification well done at all, my issue is with this outrageous process and I have no faith this council will ensure the intensification is done well.

          In my area, draft plan had upzoning along transport corridors (fair enough) and pre-1944 protection so virtually no-one submitted. The latest map has the entire area upzoned 1 level and large tracts upzoned 2 levels, pre-1944 protection now removed and no right to submit because no-one submitted before.

          Also no provision for infrastructure to support upzoning ie: no room at the schools and combined stormwater and sewerage in 100 year old clay field tiles.

          On the HNZ issue, if you think HNZ will use the upzoned properties and develop them, you mis-understand this government, they will not be able to resist selling them, they do not want to own housing stock.

          1. And that is the fatal mistake: not submitting IN SUPPORT of what the notified 2013 version had.

            Even if you did support what was in the 2013 version you should have submitted saying so. That way the Panel recognises you have filed a formal submission and therefore you can participate in the Hearings which might be beneficial now given the rezoning topics are to be heard next year…..

          2. Pre 1944 demolition control was always intended as a temporary measure until the council could do a more through assessment of heritage. This was because that the govt decided the most restrictive rules at notification – whether from the old plans it the new ones -would apply. The hearings panel have been very critical of this and don’t think it should have been used at all. The council have now done their assessment and about 15% of what was in the pre 1944 area (not already protected) will be protected.

          3. That’s just brilliant Ben, so basically EVERYONE should have submitted just on the off chance that something came up later that they might really want to really submit on. If that is what you consider due process god help us. It is not acceptable.

          4. Yes, Matt, but many will not have submitted because the pre-1944 control was in the draft plan. It’s outrageous abuse of power, it might be “legal” but it ain’t right.

          5. It’s not an abuse of power, it’s going through the process.

            If they wanted to the hearings panel could turn around and say that based on the evidence the entire region has THAB zoning

          6. 1. There is no evidence of any abuse of process. You’re just repeating scuttlebut.
            2. On HNZ; two separate issues. Yes HNZ should develope their holdings, to modernise the stock with healthier, cheaper to run more efficient dwellings, to add more dwellings to existing land holdings (intensify). But this is separate from gov policy towards HNZ, which I agree is terrible; is simply milking poor tenants in pursuit of the mythical surplus, which is ultimately in order to deliver tax cuts. In practice this is redistribution from the poor to the better off. Extraordinary, and extraordinarily short sighted. But Council zoning decisions are not the place to sort that issue!

          7. The golden rule is that if you are interested you need to submit. SkyPath is a good example of that. A lot of people didn’t have any concerns but made sure they submitted in support of it.

          8. No council zoning rules are going to prevent this government from wanting to flog off HNZ properties. It’s ideological for them. To stop the sell-off, we need to fight the sell-off, not the UP.

          9. What is the minimum level of content required to have registered a position such that you are able to be involved later on? For instances would it be adequate that I state that I acknowledge that it exists? My thoughts are that I can then submit on anything that I might vaguely have an interest in without having to go through the details to determine a position at that time, and then be involved later on if I have a position on where the matter is going.

    2. Arum, they did consult some experts, e.g. in the utilites sector. But then changes in personel and intervention from higher level meant that many of the matters agreed on were resiled from and had to be litigated through the hearings ….

      1. There was very little of it in the sectors I work in. I had several council staff ask to submit on various issues related to stormwater, landfills and contaminated land. They were right royally p**sed off that the planners did not discuss issues with their groups to understand what were the significant issues from the old ALW plan or how proposed plan changes might affect them. It was not the planners fault but the fact that the timeframe to make a unitary plan was to short. Imposed by central government.

  2. Yes, some facts at last. Is the height to boundary formula the same for MHU dwellings as it is for MHS or SH? Wouldn’t the formula have to be more lenient in a MHU zone? Is it therefore possible for a bungalow in a MHU to be replaced with a three storey dwelling without the neighbour’s consent? Asking for a friend.

    1. No they’re not the same. Take a look at the links for each zone as all the rules are in them.
      MHS – 2.5m + 45 degrees on side and rear boundaries
      MHU – 3m + 45 degrees on side and rear boundaries

      1. Note: MHS also allows “3.6m + 73.3 degrees up to 6.9m in height,then 45 degrees [to 8m height]” as a restricted discretionary activity “subject to consideration of effects on neighbours”.
        Which is higher at the boundary than the MHU allows.

        Now while this may certainly require a higher assessment criteria, it is a non-notified activity, so the there is no doubt the Herald will find cases where someone got a 3.6m wall shoved up “right against the boundary” ruining their lovely sunlit garden or something – thus proving to all that the claims of doom and gloom for all were true.

        1. That’s right Greg, so if the neighbour is of a different less intense zone then that will drive the ‘effects on neighbours’ part. So there is consideration of the boundary effects between zones.

          1. Yes consideration at boundary zones will be made by planners.

            But to relate back to the original posters question. “Is it therefore possible for a bungalow in a MHU to be replaced with a three storey dwelling without the neighbour’s consent?”

            The answer is yes it could. To the maximum height limit of 11m. There won’t be a 11m sheer wall shoved up hard to the boundary, it will run in at 45 degrees from at most, 3.6m at the boundary.

            So allowing for the 1m set back, you could have in theory a 4.6m tall wall facing the boundary, but not on it – (1m away), then a sloping roof at 45 degrees to the peak at 11m – some 7 metres in from the boundary.

          2. The IHP have said that usual notification tests will apply to restricted discretionary activities. No neighbours can still be notified of infringements to HIRB.

  3. Have to be really careful with these rules – when you draw urban growth boundaries AND cap building heights to low levels, you are setting yourself up for a housing catastrophe like San Francisco. This typically starts off as escalating rents which accelerate to insane levels, property values which go insane (and also make it near impossible to stop), which are then followed by rent controls (nothing destroys a city faster) which then is followed by a housing shortage (can’t find anywhere to rent, vacancy rates very low).

    Council rates should be based on land value (not property value, don’t tax buildings) and also at the regional level/national level there could be scope for land value tax as well.

    Land taxes encourage people to build denser which is great for public transport, and penalise NIMBY. Unlike other taxes, the amount of land does not shrink if it is taxes, and it doesn’t run away to a tax haven either.

    Land Tax Video —>

    1. Yes agree with all of this; these regs maintain a very low rise, high constrained city, which will not allow new proximate dwellings in quantity to be added easily, therefore it is a recipe for a structurally high dwelling price, outside of economic and population contraction.

      And yes a Henry George Land Tax is surely a good part of the answer to this, as it at least incentivises the use of well placed urban land to be developed as well as it can be within these sharp constraints.

    2. I disagree the Central Government should introduce LVT and phase out Resident Withholding Taxes, Corportate taxes and income taxes on lower incomes :p

      1. Harriet: You disagree? To me it sounds like you agree – what part of the 2 comments above (LT’s and Patrick’s) do you disagree with? Aren’t they saying more or lee the same thing as you suggest?

  4. The biggest farce about the PAUP was the exercise when local boards held meetings,got out theur colouring pencils and drew all other the planning maps. None of them are planning professionals and none of them truely represent their areas. The result: poor areas in west and south got loaded up with MHU and THAB, richer areas stayed MHS and single house. Absolutely no science or criteria behind their decisions.

    1. Actually the local boards out west, especially the Henderson-Massey one asked for zoning to be increased. So much so I’ve heard it shocked planners. Their rational for doing so was that they wanted places like Henderson to be more successful and recognised the way to do that was by having more people nearby. I think the discussion was a bit different out west as out had already happened a decade earlier and so people were more comfortable with things.

      1. That was my point Matt. The local board was completely over the top and hence much of this upzoning is no where near centres or PT. And it just continues the low quality rather than getting serious about apartments and terraces around New Lynn/ Glen Eden etc.

        Remember: Local Boards have absolutely no authority over zoning decisions which rest with councillors.

  5. As someone who lives southwest of sh20 I’m really happy to see these changes. Our area is close enough to the city (especially with light rail) to be popular and I don’t think there will be too many NIMBYs complaining about the changes. Bring on more density and the better infrastructure and vibrancy that comes with it.

    1. Yeah, I hear you. I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want their land value to double/triple/quadruple. You’d have to be very rich indeed to not want to pick up that windfall.

  6. Pretty rough that anyone unlucky enough to want to build a home on ‘coastal rural’ will now need resource consent for a ‘restricted discretionary’ activity.

    Also humorous that my property would be impossible to create under their silly ‘rural productive’ zone. Ha ‘productive’. Our 2 Apricots are having a bumper crop, does that count?

    1. That Single House zone, so fancied by the suburbanises is such a crock too; 600m^2 minimum! That’s hilarious: All of Ponsonby is completely illegal on this measure alone not to mention height in relation to boundary, setbacks, parking…. in other words zoning is shitty way to try to get outcomes that people actually love…

      1. Yup. 600m2 is a large site, and so many of that size (or there abouts) through the Metro area have been divided into 2 lots or cross leaded already.

        Just plain weird.

      2. Yeah, even out in the wop-wops of Waiake we (and about 90% of our neighbours, as far as the eye can see) live on much less than 600m2 of land area – and about a third of the dwellings in the ‘hood are 3-storey (which wouldn’t be allowed under the MHS rules?!).

        I’d take a guess that a higher-than-average proportion of the residents in this ‘hood would be avid Herald readers – so what’s the problem they’re supposed to be reading about and getting upset about: >600m2 lots and 2 storeys maximum – that’s so yesteryear for this area it’s … beyond words.

        The new rules would de-densify this area significantly, which is ridiculous as it’s a 3-minute walk to the Browns Bay town centre that is so very well served with an extensive range of shops/restaurants/cafes/bars/gyms/civic amenities … everything (except a cinema), and is also so very well served by excellent, frequent bus services to the rest of the North Shore and the CBD, Ponsonby, Newmarket, etc.

        Why would the planners want to de-densify this area?: It has all the amenities anyone could wish for right on its doorstep: they really are quicker to walk to than to drive to (tested it many times) – surely this is the sort of area that ticks all the boxes for allowing some more density.

        [I don’t own property here, so I don’t have a (rational) vested interest in wanting this area to be enabled to be densified, it just makes sense that it should be allowed.]

  7. I’ve mentioned this before… if we had a mechanism whereby people whose utility was adversely affected by a neighbour’s development could claim compensation from the excess utility generated by the new development, there’d be no logical reason for opposition.

    “Oh, so the developer’s new $4m development has ruined your sunlit garden? That sucks. Here is $250k in payment for that loss, paid for our of the extra utility generated by the new development.”

    Case closed.

    1. So every time you ever build anything you have to somehow calculate how much utility your neighbour is losing? Sounds very subjective! And why should you have to pay your neighbour to develop your own land? The real fix would be to get rid of all the rules apart from the ones that directly affect your neighbours – basically just have reasonable height to boundary rules only.

      1. All actions affect others. We don’t allow you to pump toxins or noise waves from your property into others, so why should you be allowed to block photons going into others?

        Also, if the new development doesn’t create more utility than it is destroying, why the hell are you building it? All about the externalities…

          1. Agreed. But let’s say you create 100 utils for 5 new residents, but that development takes 20 utils from existing residents
            It’s a huge net gain, so why not compensate the losers? Otherwise it’s just a tyranny of the majority. No different (logically) to killing someone to harvest their organs to save 10 lives.

          2. Intensification must increase utility as it increases the value of adjacent land. If anything the neighbours should be paying me to develop.

        1. Every time I light my fire I should have to compensate one of my neighbours depending on which way the wind is blowing?
          What about every time I start my car or lawn mower?
          Or is blocking sunlight more significant than noise pollution and air pollution?

    2. Here’s a relevant comment from William Fischel’s excellent new book on zoning, concerning the substitutability of nuisance law and planning regulations: “…zoning allows communities to control activities that no court has ever found to constitute a nuisance.”

      In other words, if you moved towards a nuisance-based compensation regime, you’d have to start by recognising that most of the things that people complain about are potentially too small to measure.

    3. What about when I get increased utility because the new population in the area leads to better PT and more local amenities? Do I pay some of those utils back? How ought this to be calculated?

      Or what if I have a higher than average preference for shade, and the development actually improves my enjoyment of my garden? What if I’m sociable and will get extra utils from having more neighbours? Should I disclose that or just keep quiet and pocket my compensation? If the former, how should the rate of compensation be calculated given individually varying preferences? If the latter, your proposal doesn’t reflect reality any more closely than the current situation does.

      Or we could just accept that nobody has a right to expect the area around their property to remain the same in perpetuity, and that people should make decisions about purchases accordingly. Toxic waste and shade are not equivalent.

      1. We certainly shouldn’t expect that someone owns the sunlight passing over someone else’s property, and absolutely shouldn’t expect any kind of compensation from those people building something that captures the light on their property.

        If you want unfettered sun then relying on your neighbor not to also want unfettered sun is a poor strategy! Expecting to limit your neighbors utility so that yours stays high from something you don’t own is just selfish and arrogant.

    4. The crowning glory of our species is our supreme adaptability in the face of inevitable change. Those seeking to foster an anti-change environment have effectively taken a turn into an evolutionary cul de sac.

  8. When you look at the vast tracts of blue “out of scope” changes on the newly published maps it’s hard to believe that summary graph trying to spin the overall changes as minor.

    Anyone got a breakdown of how those figures were calculated by area or summary by area of what has changed?
    I suspect there has been a couple large down zones on the fringes to compensate for large amounts of upzoning on the isthmus.

    1. As I said above, but I will repeat for your benefit Patrick, I’m not against upzoning, my problem is with the process.

      That graph is an attempt by the body controlling the process to spin the impact of the changes as minor when I don’t believe they are minor in some areas.

      1. You’re terrified that the new zoning laws in the isthmus that have almost completely changed by a single level to allow new buildings to match the majority of existing ones?

      2. But GTP you can’t complain about ‘massive’ upzoning then say you support intensification. Please choose a side. I don’t care which, but it is literally impossible to try to do both at once; what are you: the Shrodinger’s cat of city zoning; capable of being in two mutually exclusive places at once?

        Oh, and there is no evidence, brought by you or others, that there has been an abuse of process. Or do you have some?

        1. To me it doesn’t look like there’s been an abuse of the process, but I think what GTP is saying as per the thread higher up is that the process itself may be flawed.

          The Council proposed a certain set of rules and consulted on that. All submissions and feedback had that proposal as a reference point.

          Now they’ve changed the zoning for some areas and aren’t allowing further consultation, unless you explicitly came out in support of the original rules – but why would people bother doing that? Shouldn’t Council be obligated to consult again with affected parties if they deviate from what was originally proposed?

          1. The process of having the Council proposals go to an independent body is precisely there to check against Council abuse, to protect against council or others changing; up or down zoning, erratically or inaccurately. It is a technical balance against political abuse. And what we saw before the last election was a whole lot of political meddling in zoning which was subsequently either found to be unworkable or simply inaccurate at the technical level [ie not reflecting what’s there, or should be] and has now been shifted in a minor way. That’s a bad process? If everything needs to be consulted on it’ll be 20 years before we have workable planning regs.

          2. We need to keep in mind that public consultation wasn’t a mandated part of the process. Auckland Council chose to do so. They did that and then, based on other information, are also making some changes of their own, as they are legally allowed to do.

        2. I agree with GTP – I support more density, but the process has been pretty awful:
          – Council provide a plan, ask for consultation
          – Consultation takes place
          – Council completely changes its original plan, allows no more consultation
          Why didn’t they come up with these plans in the first place?

          Personally I think the council should perform planning without any consultation – that is their job, and they should be planning for the greater good, not individual needs.
          But why have consultation if you are then going to completely change the plan afterwards?

          1. This complete change is based on consultation because submitters wanted up zoning and actually proved their point

  9. Of course, what is allowed and what maximizes developer’s profit are not the same.

    For instance, Point Chev Rd which is proposed to be MHU, at the moment is seeing older single houses replaced with larger single houses. I doubt the development of the taller structures will be considered worth the hassle. Shame, since if there was some new commercial space maybe someone would open a decent cafe out there.

  10. Meanwhile, I’ve been visiting Paris, where 7-storey apartment buildings, mixed residential and commercial uses, and what seems to be a complete lack of setback or daylight controls have destroyed a once-great city and reduced its population to a state of terrified misery.

      1. Yeah, there were a couple days when the five-storey climb up the stairs felt a bit tedious. You do a lot of walking in Paris.

    1. Complete lack of controls other than the absolute and very restrictive height regulations coupled with ongoing historical massive direct state intervention into the urban built form to ensure penetration of light and air, you mean?

      I mean, I think Auckland should be denser etc, but I wouldn’t be leaning on Paris (of all cities) as my example of light-touch regulation around built form!

      1. I’m sure Paris is regulated in a number of ways. But the point is that it has rules that allow a substantially *different* built form than is allowed in most of Auckland. And somehow this is okay!

      1. Look at the 98 roster. Very, very few born in Paris
        As they say, metropolitan France is the saviour of les bleus
        Zidane etc.

  11. This is like opening your Christmas presents early and finding 3 polka dot socks a size too small.

    What is a “large lot” residential zone? And more importantly why would we ever want to create one?

    1. Lifestyle blocks… like where Steven Joyce lives, near a city but in the country, not a productive farm, but takes up a whole lot of countryside. An expensive dispersal of services for those that demand all city amenity but the ambience of the countryside. Neither one thing nor the other; lovely!

      But entirely predicated on many billions spent on driving amenity [totally auto-dependant], and cross-subsidisation from the efficient dense centre.

      1. The massive difference in land prices, inside and outside of the MUL, play a more significant role in the creation of rural sprawl. However you are correct this is subsidised at the expense of the centre.

        1. “The massive difference in land prices, inside and outside of the MUL, play a more significant role in the creation of rural sprawl.” – evidence

          I am sure limits on density have a much greater impact.

          1. I have no evidence that the MUL is better or worse than any other limit on density.

            BTW – my entire shtick on this blog, I think they are all awful.

      2. Well put. The zone should be called “unproductive non-farms” or something like that, with a subtitle: “a terrible waste of Class 1 and/or Class 2 agricultural land.”

        So little of NZ has such fertile arable soils as places like Pukekohe, and now significant chunks are at risk of being paved and concreted over with sprawl and “large lots”/”lifestyle blocks” – it’s a crying shame.

    2. Angus, a ‘large lot’ is a so called lifestyle block within the RUB. As opposed to one outside the RUB which is generally within the ‘rural productive’ zone. Contrary to some opinion, they usually supply their own services such as drinking water, septic, stormwater etc.

      I believe Phil Goff lives on one….

      1. Surely there are severe enough constraints placed at the urban limit that we do not need these things inside the limit, making the city worse.

        1. You would think so. I suspect it is resistance from existing owners wanting to hold on their ‘rural feel’ who kinda happen to find themselves inside the boundary.

  12. Have a look at Swanson with its new railway station, electrification and presumed to benefit massively from the CRL.

    Under the old mapping 50% of the surrounding land was to be single dwellings on large lots. This has now changed. The council has created a new “Large Lot” urban designation to prevent intensification on even more land around Swanson railway station.

  13. Good article. My house has been rezoned, no doubt the 10-18% p.a. rates increases I’ve had during the Len Brown years will continue as a result. Great.

  14. Specuation: The blather in the Herald was a sign that Victoria Crone was about to announce her candidacy and save everyone from the evil socialists who want to build affordable housing in Auckland for everyone. If we let the evil socialists build affordable housing for everyone it might prevent the building of affordable housing for everyone….somewhere ELSE (NIMBY reflex firmly tweaked). Note that the Herald probably doesn’t actually care……they just (probably) don’t want Phil Goff as Mayor.

    Anyone read Dirty Politics? The Herald is a major player.

  15. I own a property in the central city. 5 minutes walk from a train station. 1 minute walk from frequent buses. 5 minutes walk from 2 town centres. Close walks to parks, stores, cafes, schools, etc etc. Highly walkable. Of course, with the need for intensification close to public transport and getting people living in places they want to live its was made a single house zone in the initial plan.

    I made a submission for my property that I wanted to be able to do more with my land and build more homes that were in a great location. So what was the outcome of my submission? The property looks to remain in a single housing zone. Ridiculous. It just seems an absurd process in deciding what gets upscaled and what doesn’t. I would love to know the reasoning.

      1. A profit for the landowner, a contribution to a more efficient urban form, and several more families able to live in a good location. Utils for everybody!

      2. Early Commuter has a lot of bizarre ideas. The idea that changing zoning rules to allow more houses to be built results in landowners earning windfall gains from political processes is one of the strangest.

        Typically cart before horse argument. The windfall gain arises because a past/prior political processes have prevented landowners from developing their land more intensively. It is the political process that led to restrictive zoning which has created the opportunity for windfall gains, not the political process to remove these zoning regulations.

        And as Chris R notes: If you’re interested in utils, then allowing four people to live where Joseph does currently would seem to be a good place to start.

  16. I see my area is zoned for apartments. I can’t see how any would be affordable. The houses around here are all 1.5M each…and to get enough land for an apartment of any size – assuming 10 stories and with some land around for amenities and at least some visitor parking….would require you to buy 4 or 6 or 8 of them… just to get started you’d need $6M – $12M….and you haven’t actually done anything yet.

    These million dollar plus suburbs don’t need to worry about apartments being built. The numbers just don’t add up.

    1. That’s assuming that you’re pursuing a multi-storey, large floor plate model of apartment development. My intuition (haven’t done the numbers in a formal way) is that you could do three-storey walkup apartments for perhaps $500,000 apiece. Basically, take a single 600m2 lot, build a slightly bigger box on it, and cut up the box into six individual units. Voila. Relatively affordable housing in an expensive area.

      This is, basically, the development model that tight zoning has progressively killed off over the last 40 years:

      For what it’s worth, the Unitary Plan takes some important steps to enable this type of development – most notably, reducing or removing minimum lot sizes.

        1. No, that’s not what I mean. Tenements were typically much larger buildings – e.g. 7-storey walkups, usually built fairly close together with minimal access to light and air.

          What I’m talking about is very different: small-scale apartment buildings with a bit of space around them, dotted around suburban neighbourhoods. There are actually a lot of good examples of this model in Auckland – it was popular before we made them illegal to build. Stu D put together a few examples in this post:

          1. Here is another example:,174.7281602,3a,75y,304.84h,92.55t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sAVb1xNcowynsp5nuP39GVQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!6m1!1e1

            8 light filled apartments in the space of a large suburban home, located in NZ’s most expensive suburb Herne Bay.

            As to ‘tenements’ – you need to be careful not to confuse housing types with the causes of poverty. In NZ we have eliminated housing affordable to the poor but that doesn’t mean we have eliminated poverty. We’ve just pushed poverty out of sight. Instead of living in visible tenements our poor are living in cars, garages, or crowding multiple families into single family homes.

    2. If I buy ten million dollar properties of 400m^2 and use only 50% of the land for an actual building and build only seven stories, and build large apartments of 100m^2 then it’s still only $140,000 of land per apartment. Sections you can build a house on are 7-10 times as expensive, and apartments are significantly cheaper to build.

      So I can sell an apartment for $1m less than a house and make more profit.

      1. How much did your 7 story building cost you? I don’t know enough to come up with a sensible number myself. Too many variables.

    3. I disagree. My family house is in the $2m plus bracket. With the unitary plan in place we will be removing it and replacing it with a three story building of similar bulk and form, but divided into four apartments.

      We will easily sell the apartments for $1.3 to 1.5m each (and the existing house for a couple hundred grand as a removal job) Making about $1m in the process. The first of these has already happened in my neighborhood.

      Quality modern apartments in good neighborhoods, especially those with sea views like our property, are worth a lot.

      In more midrange suburbs they are worth less, but the land costs less too. There are few places where the economics of turning one dwelling into four or six doesn’t stack up.

      1. So is Nic 1) a rapacious developer destroying community values by building skyscrapers for windfall gains; or 2) a benevolent social planner who provides housing for the needy; or 3) a normal person doing normal things, which both makes him money and also provides homes for people who want them,

        I vote for #3.

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