This is a guest post by Anna Michels. Anna is an Urban Designer at HUE in Tāmaki Makaurau.

Auckland Council has released its proposed changes to the Auckland Unitary Plan in response to Central Government directions under the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) and incorporating the Medium Density Residential Standard (MDRS) within the Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters Bill that was passed at the end of 2021.

A major discussion point of the proposed Unitary Plan changes has been the subject of Qualifying Matters which allow councils to avoid intensifying areas otherwise earmarked for up zoning under central government mandates. Some of these Qualifying Matters are outlined in the NPS-UD, but councils also have the ability to propose their own.

One of the additional Qualifying Matters that Auckland Council is proposing is Special Character Areas (SCA). Any Qualifying Matter must provide robust evidence as to why it should be included. To justify the inclusion of SCAs as a Qualifying Matter under the NPS-UD, Auckland Council has proposed that any SCA must have a high percentage of individual character-defining properties.

Auckland Council assessed existing properties with a special character overlay on six criteria, and each property needed to score a 5 or 6 to be considered character-defining. For an existing SCA to be retained, the character-defining properties in these Special Character areas have to make up either 75% of total properties within a walkable catchment or 66% of total properties outside of a walkable catchment. (In the NPS-UD, larger upzoning is mandated within walkable catchments from rapid transit stops, city and metropolitan centre zones.)

These percentage thresholds appear to also have been created by council. No information has been released about how or why those thresholds were chosen.

Just like many other matters within the proposed plan change, Auckland Council’s approach seems to have been to spend a lot of time figuring out how to get around the main objectives of the NPS-UD, rather than focusing on meaningful city building. The Auckland Council Methodology on assessing Special Character Areas is a good example of this.

Although Auckland Council hasn’t released its methodology, the likely process is easy to work out by looking at the mapped outputs it has created in the official GIS viewer.

What was Auckland Council’s Methodology for determining Special Character Areas?

On Thursday (28/04/2022), Auckland Council uploaded the SCA Residential Findings Reports which show the individual property grades for all dwellings within any current SCA. This information is used to calculate the percentage thresholds that determine whether SCAs should be retained or removed.

Council’s internal process for reviewing the SCAs seems to be something like this:

One: dwellings are assessed and graded

Each individual dwelling within existing Special Character Areas is assessed and graded from 0-6. The basis of how this grading is created or what property features align with each grade is not publicly available yet. The assessment was started as field surveys, but completed as desktop studies using aerial photographs and Google Streetview. The gradings are recorded within the Residential Findings Reports and can be found here:

Two: concentration of highly graded properties is calculated

Following this, the percentage of individual properties scoring either 5 or 6 within an existing SCA is calculated. SCAs can be as large as 300+ homes or as small as 5 homes. The existing SCA boundaries are legacies from pre-Unitary Plan planning processes. They carried through into the Unitary Plan, and it’s these boundaries that are being assessed in this process.

The released Auckland Council documents state that rear or vacant properties have been excluded from the total number of properties within a SCA, even if they fall within SCA boundaries. This has an effect on the data accuracy of the percentage calculations.

If the percentage of individual properties scoring either 5 or 6 within a SCA is found to be above either 75% within a walkable catchment or 66% outside of a walkable catchment, the original SCA extent is retained.

Three: SCAs are removed or retained

This is really where the story should end. Auckland Council has fulfilled its mandate to assess each individual special character property and determine whether it is part of a larger character-defining area. If the methodology were to end there, there would be a lot less SCA retained than what the preliminary response maps show.

However, Auckland Council appears to have taken another step, which dramatically changes the outcomes.

Four: SCA boundaries get re-drawn

If the percentage of individual properties scoring either 5 or 6 is found to be below either of the 75% or 66% thresholds, the SCA boundaries are adjusted to create a percentage that fits within the necessary parameters. This smaller area is now classified as a new sub-area SCA.

This redrawing of boundaries to get a desired outcome can be seen on a small scale with SCAs that lose a handful of homes on the fringe, or on a large scale with SCA of 300+ homes that are cut up into three sub-area SCAs.

In the left-hand image, the original SCA boundary is in black, and the proposed new boundaries of sub-area SCAs are in yellow. The image on the right shows those sub-area SCAs in the proposed Unitary Plan.

This methodology creates two major issues that have huge impacts on the built form outcome for Auckland, and seem to be a clear attempt to undermine the goals of the NPS-UD and MDRS directives.

The two key issues with Council’s method

First issue: how do rear lots fit into SCAs?

The first issue created by Auckland Council’s methodology is the obvious statistical data discrepancy. The exclusion of rear lots from the percentage calculation creates higher percentages of character-defining individual dwellings within an SCA. This matters because it can push SCAs above the percentage threshold needed for retention.

If an area has 20 homes and 10 of those are character defining, then the percentage is 50% of the total. This is too low to meet the 66% threshold. However, if five of the total lots are rear lots and excluded from the calculation, 10 character-defining properties out of a total of 15 homes suddenly becomes 66% and the original SCA extent is retained.

Preliminary Response – Example 1: 

The property mix in the example SCA is 48 dwellings scoring a 5 or 6 grade out of a total of 98 lots. This results in 49% of properties scoring a grade of 5 or 6. This is below the required percentage to retain the SCA.

However, because the rear lots are excluded in Auckland Council’s calculations, the total number of properties within this SCA is reduced from 98 to 61. The reduction in the overall number leads to the character-defining properties becoming a larger percentage of the total. Therefore the percentage of properties scoring a grade of 5 or 6 as calculated with the AC methodology is 79%.

This now meets the percentage threshold for the SCA to be retained with its original extent.

SCA individual property grading – SCA boundary is blue, Rear lots are in semi-opaque grey

For statistical accuracy, percentage calculations should include rear properties to provide a real sense of the abundance of high-quality special character dwellings within the SCA boundary. If rear properties are not statistically considered, they should also be excluded from the SCA overlay. Currently, even if rear lots are excluded from the calculation they still receive a SCA overlay, which limits their ability to develop.

Below: a couple of examples of the high-quality special character on the street front in the Example 1 area – and the more recent rear-property structures that would be preserved in amber under the SCA.

Second issue: who decides where SCA boundaries are?

The second issue is the redrawing of Special Character Area boundaries to create ‘sub-area SCAs’. Changing SCA boundaries to change the percentage of character-defining individual dwellings in a SCA essentially sacrifices a few houses on the outskirts of the area to retain as many as possible within the cluster of sub-areas..

The principle is the same as with the exclusion of rear lots. If you reduce the total number of homes that the character defining ones are spread amongst, the saturation increases. This is reflected in the percentage, and the outcome is the retention of otherwise excluded Special Character Areas.

Preliminary Response – Example 2:

The image below shows the original boundary of this SCA outlined in blue. The property mix is 32 dwellings scoring a 5 or 6 grade out of a total number of 58. Even when applying AC’s method of excluding rear lots, the calculation in this area only achieves 64% character defining homes, which does not meet the percentage threshold required to retain the SCA.

SCA with existing SCA boundary in blue

Therefore, Auckland Council has reduced the SCA extent. The new boundaries are shown in yellow. AC has called these instances a ‘sub-area SCA’.

SCA with adjusted sub-area SCA boundary (in yellow)

The property mix has now been changed to be 26 dwellings scoring a 5 or 6 grade out of a total number of 38. The new sub-area SCA outlined in yellow is now considered to have 68% character defining homes and can be retained as a SCA.

By readjusting the boundaries and reducing the total number of lots that character defining homes are spread across, an increase in the overall percentage is achieved. This means a Special Character Area overlay that would’ve otherwise been removed now meets the set percentage threshold and is retained, but with slightly reduced extents.

Adjusting SCA boundaries to achieve a property mix that has the right percentage would be a time-consuming process considering that Auckland currently has 21,000 homes with Special Character overlay.

Below: examples of lesser character-defining housing that will be preserved in the proposed adjusted SCA for the area in Example 2. 

A focus on character at the expense of the city’s future

With the focus on assessing Special Character areas, there hasn’t been much of a conversation about the built outcome we want for Auckland in the future, and what best-practice city building would look like.

From this vantage point, it looks like Council’s process has been designed to retain the greatest number of Special Character Areas and the largest number of properties within them.

There is a clear focus through the proposed plan change on zoning what is existing, rather than following the main central government objective of a future-focused planning approach.

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  1. Gerrymandering at its finest.

    I honestly wonder why the AC is willing to go to these lengths to preserve those tiny islands of low rise? New higher developments can fit very well into historic areas if designed properly. Auckland shouldn’t be treated as a museum.

    1. Yes Pack and Crack redistricting taken to a new micro level. The Republican party would be proud.

    2. Wouldn’t true heritage be to demolish the lot and plant native forest? Heritage and population growth do not go together. The city council has already decided long ago that Auckland should not be a city of say 500,000 people where low rise would work OK, at that point heritage went out the window. They can’t have their cake (a city with lots of old low rise buildings) and eat it too (a city with 1.7 million people and growing).

      1. I can’t help but wonder what 1900s society would make of all this. My guess is they wouldn’t have thought twice about demolishing these areas of villas when it came time to intensify. Main strips like Dominion Rd is something of a freezeframe of this natural agglomeration and densification in process. That these areas of catalogue housing have been frozen in place (amongst other things…) to the detriment to the natural evolution of the city would probably have them baffled.

        1. My dad grew up at the bottom of Franklin Rd in the 40s. No indoor toilet, rubbish burned at Vic Park, gas works on Beaumont St, rough as docks. They couldn’t wait to get out of the place.

  2. So what can I do? I have an interest in a back lot 1980’s home in an SCA in one of the diagrams above. Can I apply to get the SCA removed from my property? There is certainly very little character about it.

      1. By all means have your say but they never listen to anyone in the preconsultation stuff. I pointed out a mistake in the draft Unitary Plan, in writing, at two public meetings and at a drop in. No notice was taken. Judge Kirkpatrick confirmed at the Unitary Plan call over that we would need to use Mr mfwic’s submission as grounds to correct the zoning, the only point in dispute with the Council was the correct density. If I hadn’t submitted then a correction would have been out of scope. The important thing is to submit when the Plan Change comes out.

    1. You should absolutely provide feedback at this stage of the process.

      For more info there’s a summary of the major changes here:

      And there great places such as More Homes and HUE that have put out submission guides so you can do provide your feedback yourself

      More Homes:


    2. Submit through the have your say portal before Monday 9 May.
      Then when the Plan Changes are notified in August, talk to a planning professional and make a submission.

  3. There are plenty of cool old villas in Otahahu etc, maybe put the special character protections there so we preserve some of the old character, rather than near the CBD where we need intensification. No SCA within 5km of the city centre or similar.
    But of course we all know this has nothing to do with protecting the buildings or heritage and everything to do with protecting the NIMBYs from intensification.

    1. Perhaps Cheltenham is the only place an SCA makes sense. It will all be under water soon anyway.

      1. Miffy, thanks – you’ve answered a question I had yesterday after reading a Councillor’s opinion piece which talked about Auckland’s “historic marine suburbs”.

        Quite a redolent turn of phrase to use in the same week the data was made public…

        1. Yes 100 year floods every year. Presumably the hydrologists will redefine the 100 year flood at some point, or better still give up on these stupid return periods as a means of describing events.

      2. Ah. Our own little Venice. It’d be a great place to live. No cars for a starter. We should demand a new Zone. Let’s call it the On-Stilts Zone. An absolute architects dream.

    2. Speaking as an owner of an non-SCA dwelling in an SCA Adjacent street, I feel that the Nimby approach is shooting yourself in the foot. The Nimby may own a very valuable property in an SCA, but when they become older residents and need to sell up to move to a Retirement Village or The Mount or etc, the removal of the SCA would (in my non-expert opinion) add value to their home. I realize that some of the home owners are SCA purists, but I expect when they want to cash up, the shoe might be on the other foot.
      Some of us have seen the 2 story concrete flats in the likes of Grange Rd, Fairview etc built in the 1970’s and 80’s and fear one of these arriving next door. So some design overlay might be better than an SCA and allow much higher density than currently. I (for one) am loving the large developments on Dominion and Sandringham Rd.

      1. There seem to be a lot of right wing people who are seriously degrading their imminent retirement by being anti public transport, anti intensification, anti cycling and walking, wanting a tax cut at the expense of the NZ super fund, etc. Its quite hard to understand really, I guess they don’t think more than a year ahead or something.

      2. Yes, so true. They retire in towns that have little or no healthcare, public transport and such, putting extra strain on the economy with additional inefficient services that need to be created.

    3. Sadly most of the Otahu old cold buildings that would struggle to be a healthy home are included… Apparently Google Street View assessments are the amazing assessment tool for quality of a dwelling! Really???

  4. Is the Council’s planning department a law to itself? Does John Duguid not have a boss, he just does what he wants without reference to anyone else?

    1. Yea looks like it. Absolutely crazy when the central suburbs of Auckland and Wellington getting nimby protection are the reason central govt got involved.

      1. Yep, the council has no issue with jamming 3 houses onto the tiniest plot in the suburbs, but in the places where intensification is needed most the council need to preserve “character” and “heritage” (where heritage = slightly old stuff by world standards that can be found all around the country but must also be found in central Auckland).

        1. Love this answer, where we have slightly old stuff by world standards. How do you think the rest of the World has older stuff? By not destroying it in the first place. You have to have some stuff that is allowed to get old in the first place, and this creates heritage areas. If someone had said lets bowl the 11th century church in the city I lived in in England then there would have been an uproar. If someone had said lets bowl it when it was just 100 years old, then they wouldn’t have had it now.

        2. And Stephen, do you think stuff was “allowed to get old in the first place” via the sprawlist regulations of the kind the zoners have foisted on Auckland over the last 70 or so years?

        3. Whatever old stuff you find in European cities has almost certainly replaced the even older stuff that came before it. In some cases, like Bruges, the age of the stuff that is still standing tells you roughly when the city went into decline after it had reached its moment of glory.

          Churches tend to be more permanent buildings, and what you sometimes see in churches is that they were renovated or added to during different centuries. With every addition reflecting the architectural style of that period.

        4. Stephen I have no problem with protecting some churches and similar structures, or protecting some villas if we are running low on them. But protecting 21000 homes is a different thing altogether, especially considering without protection a lot of them will still remain. A lot of the buildings that you talk about probably only survived all those years because they remained relevant, loved, or fit for purpose. Protectionism is a relatively new idea isn’t it?

  5. One of the most impactful things Auckland can do to reduce our emissions and help avert the worst of climate change is intensify. Council should put its energy into resolving real planning issues. Council spending its staff resource on this NIMBY work instead is an indication of how out of touch they are with the needs of young people and future generations.

    The Councillors responsible for overseeing this have lost any credibility they may have established on the subjects of climate change and equity. The whole thing is is a sick joke.

      1. But then why are the staff so detirmined? What drives AC staff to ignore Government direction when they have the perfect opportunity to just allow it with the knowledge it was absolutely nothing to do with them and they can’t be blamed? It’s all just bizzare..reality is, they just don’t want to spend on the infrastructure because they will get blamed for that when it goes worng or causes disruption.

      2. Zippo, I think the Councillors have been having lots of workshops on the subject. I’m not seeing much difference between officer and politician on the subject. Although I’d love to hear otherwise.

        If the politicians were wanting to lead the officers to better outcomes, they would surely keep insisting the officers follow the the government’s direction more closely.

        1. The Councillors have learnt they can undercut any central government intervention just with stubbornness and detail. Just like they ruined special housing areas and HAASHA.

  6. I was thinking the other day, imagine if all of Auckland’s population lived in the CBD and central isthmus. Think of all the infrastructure we wouldn’t need: no motorways (just some expressways over farm land to get people to other cities), no harbour bridge, significantly less pipes / power lines / etc. We probably would have kept all the tram lines and improved them. And despite the “concrete jungle” that supposedly doesn’t appeal to many, we would actually have a whole lot more nativity on our doorstep, rather then having to drive for miles to get to it. You could jump on your bike and get from the city centre to St Heliers regional park in 20 mins, or with a cycle only bridge over the harbour you could get to the North Shore beaches surrounded by wildlife instead of driving to Tawharanui. We have lost so much thanks to Sprawl and protected the shitty heritage.

    1. I am currently in Otepote (Dunedin) and a 20 minute drive from the Octogen in ANY direction has you in the countryside. Pick your direction and you can be in wilderness. A 20 minute drive from Mt Eden has you in a traffic jam around Rainbows End or Pt Chev !!

  7. I went and pulled all the results out for each area in the reports.
    In total there are around 21k properties with Special Character protection. In council plans only about 4-5k are losing them so somewhere around 16-17k are retaining protection
    As Anna’s post highlights, they’re using dodgy practices to get the number of houses with SCA retained by
    – not counting back lots or vacant sites
    – changing scope of protection areas.
    If they didn’t resize areas, about 11k sites would retain SCA, so about 10k would lose it.
    If they didn’t resize and they included back lots/vacant sites, only about 6.5k sites would retain SCA

    Another thing I noticed, with one exception, the areas where council went out of their way to resize areas were generally the wealthiest areas. Patches of high-quality in ‘poorer’ areas were left to drop but in places like Epsom, Herne Bay, Remuera etc they put lots of effort in to resizing to retain as much as possible

  8. So, Plans and Places, and Planning Committee:

    If you believe we don’t need these SCA sites to be available for intensification, is that because there is “ample potential for intensification” already? In which case, I want to see you remove the Future Urban Areas and all greenfields sprawl from Auckland’s plans.

    And, please don’t claim government is somehow “foisting” greenfields upon you. They have shown you how to enable intensification, so that the greenfields isn’t required, and you’ve chosen to belligerently ignore them.

  9. Surely the large tracts of 40’s/50’s state houses must have some form of special character,the ones’ demolished in Oranga ,all had a concrete water tanks ,repurposed as an outdoor sheds. Can l be outraged at this wanton destruction of our heritage?

    1. Actually, yes. There are lots of heritage examples that should be protected, but because they don’t fit the villa and bungalow fetish, aren’t getting protection.

      1. Clearly we don’t need ‘large tracts’ of them, but we do need examples. I like the Helsinki approach of putting an example of each building type into a central park – theirs is on an island. This preserves “types” for all to see, while a few buildings are kept for heritage purposes, and then the rest is available for proper planning.

        1. Maybe get Michael Parekōwhai to build a new version of each type at the waterfront.

  10. Surely a simple look at the fact they don’t include properties (rear lots) in the percentage count, but then proceed to include them in the SCA would mean the Government can easily say you’ve cooked the books os please start again? It’s simply fraud.

    1. The AC proposed plans get notified in August and become legal until we’ve gone through all the hassle of the independent hearing panel before the minister can finally says ‘get rid of it’.

      It’s preserving interests for another couple of years even if doesn’t eventually legally stand up.

  11. It made me think about the lower bound size of a SCA is. Like, if my neighbour and I have old timber villas, then 100% of the two houses studied could have “heritage value”. I’m assuming this is not plausible and may have missed the detail somewhere, but a neighbourhood isn’t defined by arbitrary lines around the “nice” houses.

    1. Sorry, I note in my re-reading that 5 homes is the lower bound. This kind of proves my point though, 5 street-frontage houses is a blip, not a neighbourhood needing heritage protection.

      1. So 5 villas in a row = SCA,but 5 state houses complete with large sections for context ,The Half-Gallon Quarter-Acre Pavlova Paradise
        Book by Austin Mitchell= demolition.Double standards,methinks

  12. Lies, damn lies and statistics. This is horribly self -serving, but who is the “self” being served?
    I think this is all about job preservation for the heritage change auditors – whatever their official title is. After all if you want to change your home in one of these areas you need to get THEIR sign-off. So if the number of houses in the heritage areas gets halved we’ll probably require only half the number of planners to sign-off requests for change. BOOM, my job is at risk or in John Duguid’s case my empire is at risk.
    So here’s the plan….
    We have Google Earth and Street View and GIS Viewers and and and … and we have these under-utilised junior planners so let’s use them to over-complicate everything because we can and we’ll look really smart and it will be so detailed nobody will have the energy or perseverance to challenge us. AREN’T WE CLEVER! And we keep our jobs and empire too.
    Well no not really, you are just another Emperor with no clothes on!
    So disappointing
    Thanks, Anna, for having the strengthen to point out the Emperor’s dress sense.

    1. Sticking with the idea that this over-complication has been developed to defend an existing money flow from being diluted how does the money flows through the Heritage Protection Industry? Who stands to gain and does this approach server them better?
      The people I know who renovated houses in these areas spent far more money with planners, lawyers, builders, the council and the whole renovation industrial complex than other friends who renovated houses outside of these areas. Most of them saw it as non-value adding waste that was justified as “retaining the value of the area”. ie house prices. So maybe the Real Estate industry is behind all this. Is that the real money flow?

  13. Thanks Anna, Concur with everything you’ve said. Is there any chance you could spend some time with the THAB zone?

    Frankly, I consider it a non-sense. They seem to have taken rules for two storey buildings and applied them to 19.5m high buildings (H6). It just doesn’t work! The b.s. rules recession planes, side yards, ground floor space (bigger yards by stealth), etc., etc. are totally ridiculous for efficient high density.

    They should be binned and replaced with rules like in H9 and H13 that understand SUNLIGHT!

  14. Looking at the maps we can see there is now no point whatsoever putting a light rail down Dominion Road. Even Sandringham Road only has half a catchment. There that is $29 billion saved. You’re welcome.

  15. You don’t need to remove all character buildings in order to intensify in the City. There are plenty of non-character areas that should be updated first, and lots of them, so it is not like we have no areas to do this in. It is not about NIMBYism, it should be about getting best bang for buck, while improving the city. Allowing areas like Devenport to build does not give good value for increasing the housnig stock for people in need of cheaper housing. Putting up expensive appartments here just means only the people that are weathy can afford them. Putting them up in less expensive suburbs however does potentially help. The big issue I see is around the quality and look of what is replacing the buildings being removed. There are some absolutely dreadful examples, because the developer has simply been permitted to cram as much as possible onto a site and maximise their return without any consideration to asthetics, fitting in with the buildings around them, allowing some green space, etc, then wrapping the whole road frontage with a very ugly fence. We need quality replacement builds, not rubbish, bang for a quick buck trash.

    1. Could you point me to the provision that says character houses MUST be removed?

      I’d also be keen to see the provision or study where if development happens in Devonport, it wont happen elsewhere at an affordable level.

      Help me out with those citations. Alternatively, quit the faux concern about design (where have you been the last 10yrs) and insisting on what the people of Devonport can or cannot do with their private property.

    2. The point is that Devonport is very centrally located and has a high proportion of people using public transport to get to work. Pushing development out to the fringes of Auckland decreases the proportion of people using public transport.
      I think it is proposed about 5% of Devonport be upzoned, although the locals are fighting even that. If only 5% is upzoned, some of the new housing may be relatively expensive. However, this will still take pressure off house prices elsewhere as returning expats buy in Devonport rather than, say, Onehunga. Saying only expensive housing will be built is an argument in favour of more liberal zoning to democratise the right to affordable and centrally located housing.
      When people talk about “aesthetics” they are often talking about free on road carparking. And sometimes about not wanting to live near poorer people.

    3. The idea that developers building expensive apartments doesn’t help overall affordability is wrong. In fact its a massive help.

      The people that can afford these places have their capital directed into already wealthy neighbourhoods. Instead of doing this now (and as you advocate for) these people instead go and buy in other neighbourhoods and drive up prices there, far outcompeting the locals.

      They actually have pretty massive restrictions over building aesthetics. A lot of what is produced is actually the result of regulations. The council have an unimaginable number of rules to apply, but all they end up doing is making contorted unusual looking things.

      You also are saying these places are “rubbish.. quick buck trash” but the entire first sentences are talking about how the expensive ones should be outlawed? What exactly do you want?

      1. The Devonport Locals Facebook page had a picture of a massive black 3 storey building amid villas to rally opposition to any rezoning at all. Mind you, even pictures of new 3 storey terrace housing that looked quite aesthetically pleasing, and a modern development on existing housing, raised negative comments about the traffic they would induce. The free Devonport Flagstaff newspaper has the headline ‘Massive housing changes ahead for peninsula’, when very little land is being rezoned. Page 4 of the latest issue says:
        “McRae said that ironically the 1960s flats were the only affordable housing in Devonport and were often owned by older people or rented, sometimes by single parents. If removed from the special-character protections they would be replaced by luxury three-storey town houses, which failed to address the government’s push
        for more affordable homes,”

  16. The point is that Devonport is very centrally located and has a high proportion of people using public transport to get to work. Pushing development out to the fringes of Auckland decreases the proportion of people using public transport.
    I think it is proposed about 5% of Devonport be upzoned, although the locals are fighting even that. If only 5% is upzoned, some of the new housing may be relatively expensive. However, this will still take pressure off house prices elsewhere as returning expats buy in Devonport rather than, say, Onehunga. Saying only expensive housing will be built is an argument in favour of more liberal zoning to democratise the right to affordable and centrally located housing.
    When people talk about “aesthetics” they are often talking about free on road carparking. And sometimes about not wanting to live near poorer people.

    1. Where is the evidence that Devonport has a high proportion of people using public tranport? The bus only runs every half hour and the ferry the same. In contrast about 30,000 pour down Lake Road every hour in a single occupant car.
      Devonport has its share of fubars that are already devoid of character. They should automatically be zoned for development.

  17. Lets create houses for our children, this ‘not in my back yard’ approach is not in the interest of Auckland in the future…whose interests are the council protecting? Housing is already unaffordable and commuting to CBD a nightmare with underinvestment in all modes of transport. Get on with it! We need densification!

  18. Why don’t they just define a SCA over each individual 5 or 6 graded property? Seems the logical conclusion of their process. Oh wait, we already have a process for that, it’s called heritege protection and none of these properties would qualify.

  19. With these changes, AC should seriously consider selling some parcels of street berm to newly zoned properties to allow for larger redevelopments. Obviously they would need to take into account things like future road/cycle/PT needs etc as well as tree cover, but some of these streets already have very wide roads, massive berms, and don’t seem to be on any particular route for LR or anything like that. Potentially some of these sections could raise tens of millions from some streets (and it most certainly shouldn’t be a fire sale – top dollar only or no sale).
    As mentioned obviously we’d have to consider future route protection etc so that we aren’t penny pinching to have to pay pounds later.

  20. With no character, Aucklands future will be bleak. Need the maximum number of special character areas.

    1. Bleak? Like people having to live in cars because the rules do not allow people to build more houses? Thanks Roj, but no thanks.

    2. A future where Aucklanders can afford to buy their own home, and don’t have to spend two hours a day sitting in traffic on the motorway…

      If that’s bleak, what is it we have today?

    3. Define character Roj? I lived in a a protected area in Ponsonby/Grey Lynn for 4 years until last month and I can tell you now its a place where character goes to die. Might be nice to walk your dog once in a while but it aint great to live.

    4. Nah, most of them are pretty crappy tbh. There should be a few token ones but replacing worn out old houses with much better and more useful new housing is better.

  21. Do we think council realises they just admitted that non-character buildings on rear plots have a less than minor effect on special character areas?

  22. Auckland architecture/urban design in general hasn’t been well serviced by transport engineers, planners or policy makers. These people are in general good with data, maths & quantitative analysis. Like academics they become “gate-keepers” of their chosen ideology, attacking those who aren’t true believers. The ideology has shifted car-centric models of the 1960-90s, to the current bike-centred model. What hasn’t changed by planners is the rigidity of thought & ideology. I’d argue that such people are best describing roundabouts & not the qualitative experience of space. I believe that heritage & special character can co-exist with greater housing density & multi-modal transport options. This would require a change to the current planning model of high-level market-based development. I believe Auckland would better serviced where government buys large tracks of land to redevelop. Urban designers & architects could develop well considered Masterplans, then housing developed by private developers. As I have argued previously the light industrial area Onehunga & Penrose is ideal for such redevelopment, close to transport links, cheaper land, & room for additional schools. (Pls note I don’t KO housing in this category as this merely responding to the chronic under-investment in state housing over the past 39 years.)

  23. Surely it is better to build in areas where the jobs are or which are close to the transport hubs that allow people quick access to public transport? Housing development is naturally happening along these lines potentially indicating that people are more inclined to move to close to their work than to travel longer distances to work these days due to congestion. The CBD is no longer the centre for all work. The Herald outlined I think about 8 or 9 different major job centres across Auckland the other day, and development of housing around these is proceeding well (according to the Herald). I would say Devonport could keep its heritage, as I personally would love to live there, in a heritage building, but not to commute from there to a job even in the CBD (and I’ve done that when house sitting for two months), so speaking from experience. Nice place to retire though.

    1. The 3 May article in the Herald ‘CBD losing pull as jobs heartland’ is not supported by other studies. The article is empirically strongest when it notes that only 9% of housing consents between 2016 and 2021 were in the central city and its fringes. This reflects restrictive zoning laws, rather than the preferences of those searching for accommodation. The not to scale graphic for employment doesn’t help in terms of understanding the article.

  24. Even worse concern trolling! So allow builidng within all the other job centres, just not the biggest one? Ok

  25. The analysis is intellectually shallow because it has failed to acknowledge the complexity of the portmanteau words “special character”. They are a shorthand for identifying historic heritage, historical reference, valued streetscape, cultural identity, social reference and context, and a vision for kaitiakitanga/stewardship. This is a fundament human duty towards society.
    The article fails to acknowledge the ridiculous haste that the Amendment Act has placed on the Council.

  26. This article seems to be more political idealogy and a degree of inter-generational conflict than a fair assessment by a town planner professional. This article is actually attacking my home and my village. These suburbs are a wonderful collection of what was essentially post colonial Auckland from the Victorian to the Edwardian era. These are beautifully designed houses that have been lovingly treasured by their owners. Further, my generation developed the properties by planting native trees and other vegetation (very much needed to reduce the urban carbon) and this has attracted a variety of native birds which were not seen when we bought our house. In my garden now, I can enjoy Tui, piwakawaka, riroriro and we even have at least one resident ruru who often gives a hoot in a tree on my property. Auckland has a bad habit of making erroneous decisions about its future and I believe that this is one of them. In the name of history, heritage and native flora and fauna, I believe turning the “heritage” suburbs into boxes for people to exist cheaply in is a big mistake.

    1. I live in one of these SCAs, the properties that got the grade 6 rating are all the rundown dumps that haven’t been touched. The “lovingly treasured by their owner” homes all got lower ratings due to changes made in the last 90 years.

      Not sure the revelance of your tree comment. There is no law to stipulate that only properties in a SCA may have trees planted, and plenty of people have instead cut down trees to reduce maintenance, improve light and heating, or to enjoy views. Not sure what your generation is but I have noted people from all generations taking part in planting bees.

      1. When I shifted into my street in the 1980’s, most houses had lawn, concrete, a rotating cloths line and a lemon tree. That was the way the previous generation lived in a lot of New Zealand then. I have noticed, in the time I have lived here, that all of my neighbours have planted the way we have, with natives (or trees that attract native birds like cherry trees) and that they have slowly grown and attracted the birds I spoke of that were not here when we moved in and for nearly two decades after that as the flora slowly developed. The densified housing will likely scrub all the mature natives to force a long restart, but there will be little room for flora in a place of dense housing.

        1. Scrubbing all the mature natives is likely to happen when council allows infill, by only relaxing the regulations incrementally. The alternative is council writing the regulations to allow and encourage a better form which keeps the back yards: perimeter block housing.

          The suburban houses you describe are appropriate for a town up to 400,000 people or so. Beyond that, they require such a length of roading that the transport system becomes unmanageable and unsustainable.

    2. “These are beautifully designed houses that have been lovingly treasured by their owners.”

      Yes. Nobody is forcing anyone to sell or remove their houses.

      This comment seems to be more political ideology and a degree of inter-generational conflict than a relevant comment by a well-informed citizen.

      1. Not so sure that people won’t be forced to sell their homes. As people sell to move on property developers buy them up. When they have enough close together they build a high rise, and so it goes. It will happen in slow motion, possibly not in my life time, but we need to look at the value of these areas and not throw the baby out with the bath water. I am not writing this from a personal level (I am in a protected area anyway), but from a values point of view. History and heritage are very important, as is a nice place to live. There are plenty of places in Auckland where redevelopment would be a breath of fresh air. Densification can be done well and should be done in areas where these new houses will be more affordable and close to public transport.

        1. Close to public transport is one thing, but more in general, dense development should happen in places where people can easily get around without having a car. The best areas in this respect are the inner suburbs that are covered in those proposed special character areas. These are close to the city centre, and have by far the best connectivity on public transport with the city and surrounding suburbs.

          Also as far as I understand, these houses were initially built as boxes for people to exist in cheaply.

          For areas like Grey Lynn I would think the way to go is to develop it as perimeter block housing, roughly on the footprints of the existing buildings. Keep the backyards with the trees.

  27. …and a degree of inter-generational conflict ….

    Huh, who would have thought that creating an enormous transfer of wealth, housing shortage, astounding tax free capital gains, societal harm that will echo for decades (etc etc) would create a degree of intergenerational conflict.

    1. Yes, I can certainly understand that pervasive thought, but it still is a political statement and not one that is salient to the debate over where to place the densification. One must remember that these houses were bought and paid for, were invested in and properties developed over time and are the homes of many genuine hardworking New Zealanders. Many of these (including my wife and I) have used this capital value to aid our next generation to get into the housing market.
      These conflicts should be aimed at successive governments love affair with neo-liberal free market economics and the reduction of superannuation schemes forcing our generation to invest in property to keep our heads above the water level. We didn’t know that this off-the- scale property boom would occur. So it is not a reason to, as someone said on the RN National recently, that “these people need to be booted out of their villas, so denser housing can take place”. This needs a far greater degree of nuance than that.

  28. I don’t really have a problem with excluding rear lots. If you can’t see it, I don’t get the purpose of including anything for architectural purposes. It’d be a bit like complaining that someone’s painted the inside of a light proof box in a noxious shade of pink. The flip side of this, of course, is that a property should only be counted as contributing to “character” if it’s visible from the street.

    Someone suggested on Reddit that Landscape Road in Mt Eden (well, they said Three Kings but Google says Mt Eden) has many examples of Art Deco housing. So, I went to street view to see them. For the most part, they’re very hidden. I counted four or five altogether and I don’t think any of them were particularly clearly seen.

    Now, in my experience, four or five Art Deco houses on a single (1.7km) road is quite a lot for Auckland and that was the extent of the Redditor’s claim. But I wouldn’t say it’s a good place to go to see Art Deco housing, since you don’t get a good look at them (based on Google Street View).

    The rear lot situation is the same deal.

    I am much more concerned about the way they were able to just make up and adjust the borders of the areas they were testing.

    Now, to be fair, I don’t think there’s a pre-existing geography that’s really intended to capture the experience of walking along a street. Except there is a very obvious option that captures that basic idea… the block.

    Sure, blocks don’t necessarily lead to consistent ideas outside of grids, but taking a stretch of road between two geographic barriers (mostly, other roads) and then adding the area on the other side of that stretch, would produce coherent and predictable notions. Of course, a strict interpretation of this definition would mean blocks aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive ( but I don’t think that’s necessarily that important.

    The other big problem is that I don’t understand why the walkable catchment has the higher threshold, surely it should be the case that if it’s not walkable the density of “in character” buildings needs to be higher.

    I would also argue that the interest is pretty cynically not in defining the character of any given area but instead of seeing if a specific character exists. However, that’s (a) more relevant to Scott’s post, I’m pretty sure it was one of his points, and (b) would have resulted in far more of Auckland’s being excluded were it to be used.

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