In August we celebrated as the Unitary Plan was finally approved by the council and then formally notified after a four-year roller coaster of a process. Even better was the end result was actually pretty good, far better than we could have hoped for back in February after the agreed to most of the changes the Independent Hearings Panel made. Things were looking up, that we might actually be able to start to addressing the housing crisis that has pushed people out of the city or even worse, to have to live in a car.

Unfortunately, yesterday the council announced the plan had suffered the same fate as car below after running into an Auckland 2040/Character Coalition shaped bollard (we could also do with some of those bollards in our bus lanes)


Following notification of the Unitary Plan on August 19, there was a 20 working day window for people to appeal the plan. Appeals were possible to the High Court on points of law but there were limited rights of appeal to the environment court “where the council either rejects a recommendation made by the Panel, or accepts a Panel recommendation that is identified as being beyond the scope of submissions on the PAUP” (Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan). In total there were 106 appeals, 65 to the Environment Court, 41 to the High Court, and eight applications for a judicial review.

Most of those only related to specific sites, such as a land owner complaining about the zoning of their property. But the council have deemed that a joint appeal by Auckland 2040 and the Character Coalition on the residential zoning has meant that the zones and the zoning and maps can’t become operative. Here’s what the council says about it.

However a joint appeal lodged by Auckland 2040 and the Character Coalition, which is broad in scope, has the potential to impact residential development across Auckland.

Because that appeal challenges certain zoning decisions, the zoning maps cannot become operative until that appeal is resolved. This may mean that applications for resource consent to develop a property will also need to be assessed against the relevant operative legacy planning zones and rules.

“Until all appeals are resolved, Auckland Council is required to assess all resource consent applications against parts of both the old and new plans,” says Ms Pirrit.

“Decisions will need to be made on a case by case basis as to how much weight can be given to the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan versus the operative legacy district and regional plans.”

“In practical terms, this will add greater complexity and a degree of uncertainty for applicants while the appeal process is ongoing.”

So to get consent, developments will need separately pass the old and the new criteria. That sounds onerous and something bound to add a lot of cost to the process or could perhaps even stall much needed developments for up to a year until the appeal is resolved. This almost sounds like a nightmare and one of the worst case scenarios that could have happened.

It appears that even the Character Coalition were unaware of just how much impact their appeal would have, perhaps they got some bad advice.

At the same time, it wouldn’t surprise me if council are being overly cautious about this and are playing it conservatively to prevent further issue if it was perceived they weren’t taking the process seriously. Either way I certainly hope this is able to be resolved quickly because Auckland can’t afford any delays in trying to address the housing crisis that already exists.

For the parts of the plan that aren’t affected by this appeal, the council are holding their final governing body meeting of the term and staff have recommended they make those parts operative. This will also be the final meeting for Mayor Len Brown and Councillors Arthur Anae, George Wood and Cameron Brewer who are not standing for re-election.

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  1. BS that Hughes didn’t know the repercussions of their judicial review and appeal on points of law (which weren’t limited in appeal rights btw). Hope the High Court can deal with the cases with the most widespread effect first, so that as many of the provisions of the Unitary Plan can be deemed operative asap.

  2. here we go, another witch Hunt by transportblog. why did you have to publish peoples names? just sticking to the company/group names would have sufficed. now these people have been named they will be publically hounded by your followers. Akin to bullying, Ben Ross out in front with the rest of the twitterati

    1. I’m sorry? If people take public actions that affect others they can and should expect to have to stand by them. Why should some shadowy group be allowed to hold up people’s right to shelter? Especially as they possibly can’t even grasp the consequences of their actions.

        1. I wasn’t aware that being a democracy required us to not know who is taking legal action against a public entity?

    2. Um, Sally Hughes is a well-known representative from the Coalition, who has featured in the mainstream media on many occasions, so not exactly divulging anything new…

    3. Why not publish people’s names? Those are the NIMBYs holding up the entire city. The people suffering from a lack of housing supply have the right to know who these clowns are.

    4. By that reasoning you shouldn’t mention that John Key is PM, Len Brown is Mayor, or that Simon Moutter is the MD of Spark.

    5. so does anyone know what their appeal relates to? general zoning is a bit vague. The fact that it may be interpreted to affect the whole zoning plan may be a council issue and not the person who appealled it.

  3. This is appalling. If Auckland 2040 and Character Coalition intended to put the entire plan on ice for another year – in the middle of a housing crisis – then shame on them. And if that’s *not* what they intended, they should do the honourable thing and withdraw the appeal or come to a swift conclusion in mediation.

  4. I can understand appeals to the Environment Court that are within the bounds of the appeal process will lead to holding up the plan. I dont see why judicial reviews would though unless an injunction was specifically granted? Mind you IANAL

    1. But there are 41 appeals to the High Court as well as the 8 Judicial Review applications. They can’t make a plan operative or at least those provisions while there are appeals to any court. Until a new provision is beyond challenge they have to have regard to it and the old rules. There has always been challenges on matters of law in the past but they are fairly rare. This list is amazing. If people want to blame anyone then aim your anger at the Council for asking for a one step process and the Government for being silly enough to agree to it.

      1. Yeah I see what you mean. If they only assessed using the new rules then any objector could arguably apply for a judicial review of the resource consent based on existing review going through the courts.

        Ill choose to blame the government rather than council if laying blame. The government sets up all the legislation around planning and the RMA and so should carry the can. The council is just enacting those functions.

        1. I agree but the Council had a Chief Planner at the time who was considered well connected with the Ministry. He pushed very hard for a sweetheart deal that would let the PAUP through as a single step process. Problem is that the second step they cut out was the appeal to the Environment Court who have particular expertise and are good at getting these things through quickly. It was a big mistake to miss them out.

  5. So let me get this right, they appeal some zones e.g., an apartment block in mt eden (just guessing) and now all the zoning is held up? Doesn’t sound right to me.

    1. I think they’re appealing how the zones were decided by the independent hearings panel and so is the court ruled the IHP got the process that was used to determine the zoning wrong, all zoning would need to be redone based on the changed rules. They’re basically saying any change to the PAUP is out of scope.

  6. Why any of you think the Unitary Plan is going to create affordable housing is beyond me. We’ll still have the same greedy, over leveraged developers selling the same cheaply built but overpriced accommodation. The only exception I see to this is HNZ who will be able to build more on their land holdings.

    1. Realist, basic economic concepts of “supply and demand” was taught to me at School Cert level, so I presume it’s now part of Economics at NCEA Level One.

      It’s about removing restrictions on supply so pricing comes back down to a more natural equilibrium.

      “Affordable housing” schemes to date have not been a market, but a lottery.

      1. Supply – and demand… reducing open door immigration will certainly help ease the “housing crisis”. Only New Zealand First and now, new to the scene, Labour are proposing reductions to ease demand.

    2. Do you know of a system that doesn’t run on greed? If you do, great. What I don’t understand though is where you are going to find these angels to run society for us.

    3. Realist, I am sitting on a redevelopment project for my property just waiting for approval under the unitary plan. This will take my one crappy old poorly-designed rotten bungalow slapped awkwardly in the middle of the site, and replace it with three well designed, high quality and larger floor area houses that sit on the site better and have more usable outdoor space. I’l also be able to sell these new houses for about 20% less than the old dunger cost.

      This new BS pisses me off, am I to sit for another year twiddling my thumbs? I guess it means my property value will continue to skyrocket but that’s hardly the point.

      If tripling the number of dwellings and making the 20% cheaper doesn’t help housing affordably I don’t know what will! There’s about 475,000 dwellings in Auckland, and apparently we are 30,000 short. My two extras doesn’t sound like a lot, but it would only take 1 in 30 houses to do what I’m doing to solve the crisis.

      1. Yep and there’s the kicker Nick. Everyone talks about supply and demand, but the problem we have in Auckland is land speculation and they’re not making any more of that stuff. I don’t dispute that the Unitary Plan and allowing greater capacity will help, but all the concern trolling about the Character Coalition stopping “affordable housing” – give me a break.

        Unitary Plan is but one piece of the puzzle. When will we get action on land speculation, capital gains tax, immigration etc.? Why Peter Nunns so keen on bashing planners, but seems rather quiet on other regulatory failings? Is this because it conflicts with the “growth is good” mantra that economists are so wedded to?

        Overall, the only body that will provide “affordable housing” will be Housing New Zealand.

        It is a sad reflection on the degree of self interest that has seen more than 100 appeals lodged in a process designed to limit such appeals as much as possible. Just shows people always put themselves first.

        1. And HNZ were pretty convinced that they couldn’t produce the number of houses needed to make housing affordable unless the unitary plan was passed. Therefore, the Unitary Plan allows affordable housing.

        2. “Why Peter Nunns so keen on bashing planners, but seems rather quiet on other regulatory failings?”

          Gosh, one person is saying I mindlessly agree with anything that Council planners do, and another is saying that I mindlessly disagree with them. Can’t be both at the same time.

          It’s almost like some people aren’t critically evaluating what I’m saying…

      1. Really Bryce – what do they sell their apartments for given affordable is somewhere around 400k (assuming $100k average family income).

  7. Perhaps it would be a good idea for those commenting to spend some time and actually access the High Court Appeal and read it before they leap to conclusions. My comment applies particularly to Peter Nunns- whose advocacy for the unsound decisions made by senior Council staff seems (once again) to have no limit.

    1. I read the Character Coalition’s appeal. It asks for very broad relief – effectively, an unwinding of most of the rezoning in the decisions version of the Unitary Plan. The appeal will have two effects:

      1. If it proceeds any further, it will hold up (or increase the cost/uncertainty of) thousands of new homes. In the middle of a housing crisis. There are people sleeping in cars and suffering preventable respiratory illnesses for a lack of housing. Fixing that is an absolute priority.

      2. If it succeeds, it will result in a plan that is not sufficient to meet Auckland’s future housing needs. Meaning that we will either have to (a) go through another similar planning process in a decade’s time to rezone most of the same properties for higher density or (b) experience an ongoing, more or less permanent housing crisis, with all the attendant social costs.

      That’s not the society I want to live in. Other people are, of course, entitled to disagree.

      1. Oh. I see one is notice of appeal, the other is notice of proceeding. The proceeding has more detail, maybe the council officers relied on the notice of appeal for their report to councillors the other day?

  8. All the Appeals are listed on the Council website here:

    The Character Coalition Appeal (to the High Court) is here:

    It is very broad (appealing ‘residential zoning via the maps’ as a method, but not the text (ie rules etc) and as far as i can tell (its really not clear what specific relief is sought) seeks all SHZ and MHS zoning to return to the ?notified? version.

    1. Good Grief! I just looked at the list to the High Court- so much for a fast-track process. This is going to take twice as long as if they had just done the job through the normal review methods. Auckland council lobbied to avoid the proper method so now they are stuck with this.

    2. The real problem is that the Character Coalition appeal may actually succeed. I understand their beef is that a certain zoning map was notified, and then a whole raft of changes were made that didn’t given members of the public any right to submit as they’d seen the notified version and were happy.

      That is quite possibly an abuse of process and the High Court may strike down any zoning changes that were made without re-notification of the plan.

        1. Their point is “Mrs Smith saw her street was zoned Single House. Being satisfied with that zoning she did not submit. When the Council changed her street to Mixed Housing Urban without notifying her or the street she did not get a fair chance to make her views known”

          Not saying thats right, but potential High Court could rule this was bad process and unwind all the zoning changes.

        2. That is what has happened under all plans introduced since the RMA was passed. If the appeal was to be successful it would mean you could theoretically never approve any new plan as every time you made a change in response to submissions you would have to put the whole thing out for submission ad infinitum.

          I also note that the appeal makes numerous references to errors in law without ever stating what particular pieces of legislation where being infringed. I would note that s144(5) of the LGAATP 2010 states that the hearing panel “is not limited to making recommendations only within the scope of the submissions made on the proposed plan”. I’m amazed they spent so much time worrying about the scope of submissions in their notice of appeal when it was clear the IHP were never restricted to that.

    1. I think you would find that your ISP will not like this and may even remove your account, check their rules etc. Doing this would make you no better than a spammer

    2. Matt L – you see Bens comment above. Maybe Transportblog needs to reign in some of its commentors? If that sort of comment stands on this site then you are on a slippery slope, not to mention getting close to the Cyber Bullying rules

      1. I don’t support Ben’s idea. However, I can tell you ever since the infamous council meeting where geriatric fools led by Auckland 2040 piled into the council chambers to intimidate and harass Auckland Youth Council submitters, there has been a growing resentment at these NIMBY twats who reside in certain toffee-nosed suburbs throwing up every single road block they can find in the name of “democracy”.

        1. I can remember some union louts and their mates running onto a motorway and putting motorists lives at risk by their moronic actions.

        2. You meant to say that proud Unionists blocked a motorway off ramp. It was not the motorway at all.

        3. Owen I would have to agree with the opinion of Vance, the union I belong to was present on the day but not stupid enough to sit in live motorway lanes.

    3. It is illegal to harass someone like that, or to organise a group to do so on your behalf. If you were to phone/email some members politely and ask for them to reconsider then that would of course be completely legal.

    4. Regardless of whether it’s legal, it is certainly antisocial and likely to be counterproductive.

      FYI to all commenters: please refer to the user guidelines for a guide to what is considered acceptable behaviour on Transportblog. Some relevant user guidelines in this case:

      1. Commenters are guests and are asked to behave accordingly. Treat other members of the community with civility and respect. If you see disrespectful behavior or trolling, please report it to us rather than inflaming the situation. The editors’ decisions on these matters are final.

      3. Ad hominem attacks are frowned upon. If you disagree with someone, refute their statements rather before insulting them. If you must insult someone, be cheeky.

  9. I think at least part of the problem was the timeframe the Government forced on the parties and the other part of the problem is that the Government didn’t require the Panel to report on each submission. If you read the Independent Panel’s report they dont seem to name the submission they have used as scope for each zone change, rather they just say everything they did is in scope with some fairly bald statements. Maybe they ran out of time. If you look at most reports on Proposed District Plans the committees are usually very careful address each submission and show which submission they are relying on for scope. This Panel had the power to go outside scope if they wanted but on zoning at least they seem to have just decided everything was in. Where this now gets really nasty is the parties have to do that work to figure out which submission gives the four corners of each decision. That will be really time consuming for the appellants and the Council.

    1. See what I am really confused about is how they define what is in scope. If I make a submission that asks for the entire isthmus to be rezoned at least one level higher, or an entire road to be MHU, or 10 properties to be THAB, or my property to be added to the adjacent metro centre, why aren’t all of these changes in scope? They all specify addresses, and proposed zoning.

      1. This is pretty much what the IHP has done (and is possible under RMA changes that allow decision reports to address themes, rather than the tedious box ticking submission based ones) – there were submissions seeking everything from total upzoning to total downzoning. ANY change to the zoning is arguably therefore ‘in scope’ but there is an issue (techncial/legal/moral?) as highlighted in the CharCo appeal that would an ordinary submitter have been aware of the potential consequence of such broad submissions being accepted on their particular property, and therefore were the IHPs reliance (and councils acceptance of such reliance) on such broad terms strictly legal? I guess the appeal highlights an issue between means and ends – the editorial direction of this blog would say the ends are probably justifiable, others who may also have other concerns (ie the ends are also bad) would say the means are important too. I think the ends are important at this particular time, but also, yay for the rule of law that applies irrespective.

      2. You are not the only one confused by scope. Most of us are. The Judge gave links to case law in his 14 Jan 2016 Directions
        The problem is that some of it relates to Plan change applications rather than a whole Plan review. It isn’t part of the test but the practical problem they face is figuring out if someone can read a submission and understand whether it includes them or not. They only chance they get to participate is through a further submission. If you ask for more of something but dont say where then it gets unclear. The clean way to do it is shade a map so there is no doubt. I did that and got through but now i have to figure out if any of these appeals will stop me. As I said elsewhere when they use the usual RMA Plan review methods the Council reports on each submission (accepted, rejected or accepted in part). It is tedious but sets out the relationship between every decision and the submissions it came from. The parties now have to wade through all of those submissions trying to figure which is relevant.

        1. trawling would occur anyway, to ensure the submission (or more likely the summary of submission) was correctly framed. Changes to requirements for decision reports were made to improve decision making to enable greater focus on the wood (themes), than the trees (individual subs), not to ease the workload of appellants legal aides.

          Also, topics = themes, and the submission reports also allocate sub point to themes, so the set of relevant sub required to be trawled is much less than 100% of all submissions

        2. Problem is it removed the discipline of matching each decision and submission so it is very easy to knock out a report where the actual decision is only vaguely related to the text of the submission. Before it was a lot harder. The only advantage is to the person writing the report for the decision makers. The disadvantage is to people who made the submission trying to figure out if a decision maker actually engaged with their idea. In my case my submission gives scope to the change that i was asking for and to the alternative the Council was asking for. The report doesn’t connect them so you have to wade through topic 81 to find that gem. Yet to reach their decision the Panel made the connection, then it gets lost in a quicky report.

    2. s144(5) of the LGAATP means any decision didn’t need to be within scope of submissions. hence any appeal on the basis that a recommendation weren’t within scope seems to be somewhat redundant.

      1. Yes but out of scope decisions had to be noted as being out of scope as appeal rights were available. Because they have said they are in scope and gone forward on that basis then the only remedies are at the High Court. I have seen cases take years to get through there and the higher courts. Another case of a short cut that wasn’t short at all.

  10. I think to blame these groups is a bit harsh – they are just standing up for what they believe in – just as I’m sure generation zero would lodge an appeal if the unitary plan had been too conservative.
    Its the process that is just insane. That an elected council has to jump through this many hoops just to change planning rules is nuts. Planning is a core role of the council, the council is elected, they should be able to do whatever they like (and if they get it wrong, they will be not get re-elected).
    Can you imagine if every time the government wanted to change a law they had to go through 3 years of consultation and then be open to legal appeals!

  11. Rather than sending toxic messages we should appeal to their sense of morality. If they did not intend to perpetuate homelessness and slow or stop building then they now have a chance to amend or withdraw.

      1. “What are you doing about homelessness and why do you want to prevent others from exercising their rights?”

        That’s a really good question to ask Auckland 1040 and the Character Coalition.

  12. The Government via Nick Smith will simply legislate that the AUP as released by the IHP and accepted by the Auckland Council is now “law”.

    That will short circuit the process as Nick Smith said he would do, if needed. He can do that as after all, Parliament is the highest court in the land.

    While Auckland2040 et al could seek judicial reviews, this would mean the Auckland Unitary Plan would become operative in the meantime.

  13. What are these heritage/character protection people trying to achieve? Wander around the older parts of Auckland and its not difficult to find examples that would not be allowed under the SHZ rules. Houses over 8m high, narrow side yards. Short or even non-existent front yards. No off street parking etc. In many cases if you wanted to build a “character” style house the rules would not allow it. Play their own game and propose a special character zone that allows for the rules of over a century ago. If the oppose they are exposed for what they are, protectors of privilege rather than defenders of history.

  14. I don’t think “developments will need separately pass the old and the new criteria”. Council will have to assess proposals against both plans so will depend on the weighting of each. Presumably Council could assess with much greater weighting to the PAUP rules (as that’s what will eventually become Operative) and tiny weighting to old Operative Plan (recognising that it’s just a delay tactic by selfish halfwits)? It’s only a problem if it means notification or neighbours consents required. Otherwise it’s just more paperwork and cost to get a Consent so not huge deal?

    1. Yes, for non-complying that is true. But the whole point of the UP was to make way more stuff compliant which it no longer will be. So you’ll still need to jump through all of the old hoops.

    2. Not quite. Generally speaking, if a PAUP Decisions Version provision has not been deemed operative, and it clashes with the outcomes of a rule in the legacy plan, then the legacy plan rule will have greater weighting.

    3. All resource consent which have been submitted over the past 3 years in AK have had to go through these extra hoops. It is a little more work (and risk) but case law is well established in how this works so not an overly complicated process.

  15. I can’t believe you actually see the UP as a solution to people living in cars. The UP will make next to no difference at all to housing prices, let alone deliver anything that people living in cars could afford.

    The UP is a pro-developer/development plan, and those who support it do so for that reason. Has little to do with delivering improved pricing, and has little to do with environmental goals.

        1. as far as I’m aware the complexity of the housing market doesn’t change the nature of the relationship between the supply and prices.Complexity might introduce issues like wedges and lags, but the underlying relationship still holds: Increasing the supply of housing will lead to lower prices.

          Auckland is a case in point. We used to have affordable apartments, and now we don’t. Largely because Auckland City adopted regulations that made it impossible to deliver apartments for less than $400k. That said, even $400k is still a lot less than the current average property price, so that even delivering apartments at this inflated price level will reduce average prices.

          Basically, the UP allows for increased supply, which can be expected to have an downwards effect on prices.

          I know of no evidence to support Geoff’s position, and I know of no evidence to suggest that “complexities” change the direction of the relationship. In fact, the complexities might enhance the relationship. Case in point: Let’s assume that landowners and developers have market power that enables them to extract rents. By allowing for increased supply, the size of the housing market expands, introducing new competition, such as Australian property developers entering the market.

          In this case, complexity enhances the relationship between supply and price.

          I note this is not hamburger in the sky stuff; the OECD has estimated elasticities of supply for housing wrt price and generally the countries that have elastic supply response (USA, Sweden (outside of Stockholm), Japan etc) tend to have stable property prices.

          As I’m sure you know.

        2. The complexity I was thinking about was infrastructure provision which government naturally needs to be involved in given the large capital costs. This means its not as simple as saying “increase supply”. The Council/Government has a massive infrastructure deficit to address in Auckland which will take many years.

          Addressing demand side would be far more swift in at least STABILISING prices.

        3. Why do you think the government needs to be involved? There are successful private models we could use.

        4. That’s a great presentation, Stu. Thanks for linking it. I’m aware of Johansson’s previous work (and cite it regularly!) but it’s nice to see a clear explanation of how various policy levers all fit together.

          FYI to Realist – the presentation also discusses demand-side influences, principally the impact of tax distortions favouring property ownership.

        5. Realist – one could argue that demand-side policies are also more complex than they apear on the surface. Either way i have personally always supported both supply and demand side measures. The UP is an example of the former, while capital controls / taxes are an example of the latter. I would argue that both are complex, but both have clear effects on prices. Increasing supply will reduce prices.

    1. Geoff people will still be living in cars. But the Unitary plan will make it more difficult to find anywhere to park their car/home.

      1. ATs parking management policies will make it easier to find a car-park than its been in the past.

        MPRs don’t guarantee availability; parking management policies effectively do.

  16. FFS, I can’t imagine these comments of parking spaces and the ability of the homeless to park their cars are serious comments. Therefore it must just be a bad taste attempt at sarcasm
    I do hope this UP appeal nonsense is disposed of by govt intervention asap.

  17. Sorry, late to this. But really the fault lies with the council fair and square – why are there so many Council apologists?
    They notified a totally deficient plan in 2013. They had a poor evidence base and also caved in to NIMBYS after consulting on the draft plan. If they had notified the bold plan they needed to in 2013, we wouldn’t have this problem.
    As much as I want to see widespread density (philosophically, professionally and personally – I don’t own in Auckland), I don’t hold any grudges against the High Court appeal. Surely it is questionable process for the zoning of whole blocks or even neighbourhoods to occur without those parties having the ability to have their say on the upzonings that occurred during the process ??
    Time will tell how the Court rules, and whether or not The Council will have to do a massive plan change for the vast number of properties that changed from Single House zoning to a higher density zoning through the process. This, of course would be a bit of a mini-disaster, but again in my opinion Council only have themselves to blame…..

    1. As an update, there was a notification today that 2040 and Character Coalition have amended their appeal presumably so it only affects what they percieve to be the out of scope changes

  18. Why should a bunch of Nimbys dictate the zoning change on my property?! I am in agreement with the new PAUP. They don’t give a damn about the future generations and if they’ll ever be able to afford to live in Auckland. Auckland Character Coalition and Auckland 2040 and those supporting them should be ashamed!

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