27 Jul 2016

More high-density housing for Auckland

3:56 pm on 27 July 2016

A revised version of Auckland's Unitary Plan means much more of the city will be zoned for higher density housing than previously proposed.

In the new proposal, which has just been unveiled, the proportion of the city zoned for single homes has shrunk by 22 percent.

A bird's eye view of Auckland (2016)

Photo: 123RF

The independent hearings panel that made the changes has recommended nearly 60 percent of Auckland be zoned for higher density housing, which is housing of two or three storeys.

Its recommendations will now be debated by the Auckland Council, which must approve the plan in just over three weeks.

Read the new version of the plan in full here.

The panel said all the additional housing capacity needed for the next 24 years should be zoned immediately, so that 422,000 new dwellings could be built.

It erred on the side of zoning too much capacity, saying the consequences of providing too little were more serious.

The panel held to the council's general policy of accommodating up to 70 percent of future housing growth within the urban area, and up to 40 percent outside of it.

The existing urban area is expected to accommodate 270,000 additional dwellings.

A lot of future growth is also expected in rural areas, where 115,000 dwellings have been zoned, although these are unlikely to be built for seven years or more.

Proposed rural-urban boundary retained

Auckland Council director of regional services Penny Pirrit said the new version retained the proposed rural-urban boundary, but with a caveat.

"The rule relating to the rural-urban boundary is now at a district plan level. In layman's terms, what does that mean? It means that a private plan change can be lodged with council to shift that rural-urban boundary in the future."

Ms Pirrit said her first impression of the revised plan was that it was a pared-back version of the council's original proposal.

In general, the panel has pumped up urban housing density and also removed more detailed protections or regulations.

It has done away with partial protection of neighbourhood with homes built before 1944, and removed many proposed ideas such as being able to regulate the sustainability of new dwellings.

The council described the level of density in the panel's recommendations as higher than it had proposed, but lower than that sought in submissions by Housing New Zealand.

The recommendation to zone immediately for all of the 422,000 additional dwellings needed over the coming 24 years followed research into the "real world" likelihood of different zonings actually leading to homes being built.

The capacity in the panel's recommendations is almost double the 213,000 dwellings likely to have been built in the original version of the plan drawn up by the council in 2013.

The following two images show extra housing capacity, as enabled by the 2013 version, compared to the new recommendations released today:

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Photo: Supplied

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Photo: Supplied

Other recommended changes include the removal of the ability to require a proportion of new developments to be affordable.

It has also removed a schedule of areas declared of significance or value to Māori.

It said the evidence was not strong enough, and removed the blanket need for consultation on proposed developments that might affect Māori.

Among the panel's findings were that the current shortage of dwellings was 40,000 and that 13,000 new dwellings were needed every year.

Major milestone for Auckland - Brown

Auckland mayor Len Brown described the release of the plan as a major milestone for Auckland.

He said, after four years of debate, everyone has had ample opportunity to have their say - now the council needed to consider it, and make the final decisions.

Deputy mayor Penny Hulse said the recommendations now needed to be accepted in part or in full, or rejected with clear reasons.

She said there was now a very clear legal process for councillors to follow.

The Auckland Council has 20 working days to consider the recommendations, and has to notify the public on its decisions by 19 August.

Councillors will begin their consideration of the recommendations on 10 August.

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