Auckland Council votes for Unitary Plan

Monday 15 August 2016

It’s taken four long years, but the SuperCity will be getting a new planning rule book after the Auckland Council’s Governing Body voted to adopt the controversial Unitary Plan.

By Miriam Bell

Auckland Council announced today that its Governing Body has made its final decisions on the Independent Hearings Panel’s Unitary Plan recommendations.

After four days of decision-making, the Governing Body voted to support a majority of the Panel’s recommendations – which will allow for the development of more housing and infrastructure.

This means that Auckland’s new Unitary Plan will provide for:

• More than 400,000 new residential dwelling to meet the demands of Auckland’s growth over the next 30 years.

• Expansion of the Rural Urban Boundary to open up more new land for development as the city grows, with flexibility to move the boundary through private plan changes.

• A more compact city with opportunities to build more homes in the existing urban area of two to three stories, and up to six stories close to town centres and transport hubs.

• A focus on high quality urban design – including requirement for a resource consent for more than three dwellings on a site that complies with urban design rules and a minimum size for apartments.

• Protection of the city’s historic heritage with approximately 120 additional historic places scheduled, as well as the retention of protection of 74 volcanic viewshafts.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown said the city now has a very finely balanced plan which will ultimately deliver for the benefit of Auckland.

However, although many of the Panel’s recommendations were adopted, some of its more developer-friendly proposals were not.

These include the dropping of a minimum size requirement for apartments and non-notifiable consenting for up to four dwellings on a site.

This decision has disappointed some commentators who believe there is a need for smaller, more affordable apartments.

Auckland Property Investors Association president Andrew Bruce said he thought it was idiotic to retain a minimum size requirement for apartments.

“I don’t think the people who make these decisions realise that there is a sizeable portion of the population who are very price driven and who want small apartments as a result.”

Conversely, as an investor with some small apartments, the decision actually underwrites his apartment assets, he said.

Despite disagreeing with the apartment size decision, Bruce believes the Unitary Plan is a good one.

“The chief thing is density. To enable Auckland to move forward they had to look at creating the capacity for density.”

This has been done, but now it was a matter of whether or not there was capacity in the construction industry to deliver at the rate required, he said.

The Unitary Plan will be publicly notified by the Council on Friday August 19.

There will be limited scope for appeals which must be lodged by Friday September 16.

Any part of the Unitary Plan which is challenged in an appeal will remain unresolved until the Environment Court rules on it.

But all parts of the Unitary Plan which are not appealed will come into force on September 16.

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