Auckland Council Unitary Plan – Summary Commentary

Posted on Thursday, July 18 2013

Auckland Council Unitary Plan – Opportunity For Property Investors


On Friday 15 March 2013, Mayor Len Brown launched the draft of Auckland Council’s Unitary Plan for the Region. This is an informal process at this stage with the Council asking for comments before 31 May 2013; the Plan will then be legally notified for submissions about September this year.
The Auckland Unitary Plan will replace the 12 existing district and regional plans in the Auckland area, many of which are already more than 10 years old.

The Unitary Plan submission and decision process has been amended by recent changes introduced by the Resource Management Reform Bill. A detailed description of these changes is set out in TNP’s earlier article at:

The Auckland Council through its Unitary Plan undertakes task of addressing major environmental, developmental, social, and economic issues, including:
• Constraining the spatial extent of urban development through a Rural Urban Boundary (RUB) previously described as the Metropolitan Urban Limits (MUL);
• Providing for affordable housing through increased land and housing supply;
• Ensuring high amenity housing design through appropriate urban design controls and guidelines;
• Ensuring there is adequate infrastructure (roads, public transport and services) to accommodate increased housing densities at a rate of an average of 13,000 new houses a year for the next 30 years ; and
• Constraining rural-residential subdivision opportunities outside of the RUB.

The Plan introduces new city-wide zonings, with some of the most significant rules under these consisting of:
• A Single House zone allowing a single house on a single lot (500m2);
• A Mixed Housing zone encouraging a mix of detached, semi-detached and attached dwellings, units, town houses, terraced houses and small scale apartment buildings;
• A Terraced Housing and Apartment Building zone encouraging the development of apartments ranging from four to six storeys in height, as well as terraced housing;
• A Large Lot Residential Zone providing for large lots on land that is subject to physical or landscape constraints and is generally un-serviced (4,000m2);
• Metropolitan centres with provision for buildings to 18 storeys (72.5m);
• Town centres with buildings to 8 storeys (32.5m or 24.5m depending on location) and 4 storeys (16.5m);
• Local centres with building heights between 12.5m to 16.5m;
• Rural zones with differing activity rules, but in terms of subdivision, the summary is that this is substantially constrained in that no net increase in total sites is possible, but transferable titles can be applied for in return for protection of natural features, or amalgamation and transfer. A further constraint is that transferable titles can only occur in specified zones, predominantly the Countryside Living Rural Zone; and
• Several overlays and precincts, with specific area rules applicable which constrain or enable development beyond that applied by the underlying zone.

Auckland Council Unitary Plan - Opportunity For Property Investors

No one can argue that a “one-plan” approach for Auckland is well overdue and welcome, given the complex, inconsistent, and uncertain planning framework currently applying across the City. Furthermore, the practicality of urban intensification along public transport routes and in locations already serviced by public infrastructure is unarguable in principle. However, there are complicating factors and tensions requiring careful consideration, and equally refined solutions, such as:

• enabling the rapid development and supply of housing within the RUB (when it is finally applied) in order to address the Auckland housing crisis;
• encouraging and assisting Council CCO’s (Watercare and Auckland Transport) to develop systems and mechanisms to ensure the necessary infrastructure support is provided for areas earmarked for intensification and expansion;
• providing incentives for developers to develop at the specified intensities, such as development contribution reductions, height and density limits which are financially viable, and infrastructure support; and
• achieving market acceptance of the ‘compact liveable city’ concept which relies substantially on the willingness of people to embrace a totally new housing typology instead of the traditional free-standing house and section package.

In summary, the Unitary Plan has the ability to achieve a more efficient planning process through standardised City-wide policies and rules, and a more environmentally sustainable development framework resulting in better environmental outcomes. However, there are many balancing factors to be addressed, and as the Plan appeal process is substantially limited by the new RMA legislation, it is essential that high quality submissions from all those affected by the proposed Plan will help to resolve the final form and content of the Auckland Unitary Plan.

For more information on the Unitary Plan, go to

Feel free to get in touch if you would like us to assist you in engaging with the Council to ensure your development objectives or concerns are taken into account in the Unitary Plan.


[1] Article in “The Aucklander”, “No Deal on the Unitary Plan” dated 26 March 2013


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Mark Benjamin

At Terra Nova Planning, we specialise in strategic and policy planning, structure planning, urban design, and the consenting of development schemes. We have a track record of many hundreds of successful land use and subdivison resource consents.

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