15 Aug 2016

Auckland Council signs off Unitary Plan

4:35 pm on 15 August 2016

The country's biggest town planning exercise is now complete, with the Auckland Council signing off its oddly-named Unitary Plan.

Auckland Unitary Plan

The Auckland Unitary Plan adds capacity for 422,000 new homes. Photo: Auckland City Council

It's oddly named because the creation of a single development blueprint has been the biggest and most contentious task undertaken by the council since it was formed in 2010 by amalgamating eight previous local bodies.

The Unitary Plan merges dozens of past planning rulebooks and, crucially, re-zones the city to provide more higher-density housing, close to transport, for population growth of up to 1 million by 2040.

The job was written into legislation creating the council, and has taken much of the past five years.

The council proposed a plan just before the 2013 local body elections, and a government-appointed panel has conducted 249 days of hearings, last month recommending a rewritten version to the council.

Some communities strongly opposed higher density zonings, while supporters argued that higher density and smaller, better located homes would make the city more affordable.

Councillors this afternoon wound up four days of working through the final version of the plan.

Council development committee meeting about Unitary Plan. 10 August 2016.

The Auckland Council today signed off the completed plan, which has been about five years in the making. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Deputy mayor Penny Hulse said, while the plan wasn't perfect, it would enable the building of homes that were more affordable.

"It's certainly going to deliver an awful lot more homes than you could have built before the plan was finalised," she said.

"The other thing is it allows for terraced housing, for apartments, and different kinds of homes, and they're simply going to be more affordable than the standalone houses that we've got now."

The Unitary Plan makes many changes, most significantly to the type of housing that can be built.

The government is keen for the plan to be implemented, believing the zoning for more dwellings might accelerate home building, and ease both Auckland's housing shortage, and steadily rising prices.

The Unitary Plan will be formally notified on 19 August, the deadline set by the government when the process began.

Appeals of legal challenges must be lodged by 16 September, and any part of the plan which is challenged will remain unresolved until a ruling by the Environment Court.

Any part of the plan not appealed will come into force on 16 September.

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