The Auckland Council are currently consulting on the publicly notified changes to the Auckland Unitary Plan (AUP).
The proposal follows a draft consultation on the changes the Council launched in April and are in response to the governments housing rules under the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) from 2020 and the Medium Density Residential Standards (MDRS) from 2021.
Known as Plan Change 78, the proposed changes respond to the government’s National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD). This requires the council to enable buildings of six storeys or more within walking distances of Auckland’s city centre, 10 large metropolitan centres, and around rapid transit stops.
Additionally, with the plan change publicly notified, the government’s new Medium Density Residential Standards (MDRS) also come into immediate legal effect from today, 18 August, allowing up to three houses of up to three-storeys to be built on most residential sites.
John Duguid, General Manager for Plans and Places, says the council is encouraging people to make their submission and give their views on changes to implement the NPS-UD and the MDRS.
“These changes to the Auckland Unitary Plan will have a major influence on how our city will grow in the years ahead.
The Auckland Unitary Plan already enables significant capacity for housing and development, however, the changes enable substantially more, creating capacity for housing that greatly exceeds the projected demand in Auckland over the next 30 years.
“The changes enable taller buildings within walking distances to our largest urban centres and public transport as well as changes to the rules for how people can choose to develop their property right across the city.
Unsurprisingly, the notified version signed off by council in early August is nearly identical to that proposed in April. The good news is that the plan will allow for a lot more housing within the existing urban area, just as those government changes intend. The bad news is that the flaws in the draft plan still exist which means little to no change will be allowed for in suburbs with some of the best transport options and local amenities.
The two biggest issues with the plan are:
- The retention of so much Special Character zoning
- The light rail void
Let’s look at those quickly.
A big part of the issue with the changes is that the council appear to have approached the changes with the mindset that the existing AUP was near perfect and so nothing needed to be done. This is most evident in how they’ve treated special character. Instead of focusing their time on working out how to make the city more liveable, such as ensuring that higher-density zoning allows for the amenities needed to support residents of those areas, the council planning teams spent all their time physically and virtually walking the streets to try and judge character values.
Earlier in the year when I asked the Council why they hadn’t focused on liveability more, their answer was they ‘didn’t have enough time’.
As this guest post highlighted, that methodology was deeply flawed and geared towards the council trying to make as few changes to these areas as possible. Interestingly it appears the government agrees.
Ministers in Wellington think Auckland Council has been overzealous in the way it has applied character protections to villa-heavy central suburbs and potentially in breach of new planning laws designed to free up urban land for more apartments and townhouses.
This could be a problem for the council as it is a central government minister who is the ultimate arbiter of whether it has interpreted the planning laws correctly or not.
If the Government is right, it would mean – eventually – more land in city-adjacent suburbs like Grey Lynn and Ponsonby being zoned to allow for apartments and townhouses.
The Light Rail Void
Take one look at the planning maps and it’s hard to miss the huge void in the middle of the isthmus and around Mangere thanks to light rail. This area is huge, covering an estimated 37 square kilometres (comprising 26 sq km in the isthmus and 11sq km in Mangere). This will that the effect of delaying housing development in some highly desirable locations with good public transport options for years.
I disagree with it but I can understand the point of excluding this area to some degree while council wait to see what, if anything happens with light rail. But one of the things I find particularly outrageous about this is that it covers existing stations on the rapid transit network
For some more on why it’s important the council include this corridor now is outlined here.
Submissions are open till 29-September.