New accommodation rules: big changes for Auckland


We highlight the greater role central government has played in planning Auckland’s growth by introducing new rules for greater housing density in our city.

Most of the government’s new rules are mandatory, but Auckland Council has limited leeway to make some decisions. Here’s a look at the big changes and what it means for Auckland.

Auckland City Center

The central government is demanding that the council allow as much building height and density in the town center as possible for new homes and businesses.

The city center is one of Auckland’s fastest growing residential and employment centers and is expected to continue to grow over the next 30 years. Auckland Council is already allowing significant high-rise development in our city center as part of the Auckland Unit Plan.

However, we limit the height of buildings in a number of areas, for example, on the seafront, around public spaces like Albert Park and Aotea Square, and for views of our Maunga and other landmarks, and we propose that these areas remain exempt from the height of the building.

Metropolitan centers

In metropolitan centers in Auckland, we must allow building heights of six stories or more.

Auckland has 10 metropolitan centers namely Newmarket, Manukau, New Lynn, Sylvia Park, Botany, Papakura, Takapuna, Henderson, Albany and Westgate.

They are familiar to many Aucklanders as very large places for shopping and entertainment, but also for employment, education, community services and apartment living with high frequency transport.

In the coming years, these areas are expected to grow significantly as important residential and employment hubs.

Most of our metropolitan centers already allow buildings taller than six stories and where building heights are currently less than six stories, we are proposing that these limits be maintained.

Pools within walking distance

Around our downtown core, 10 metropolitan centers and rapid transit stops, the government requires that we have “walkable watersheds” where building heights of six stories or more must be permitted.

These are areas around urban centers or transit stops where people can live within walking and cycling distance to work, shopping, services, schools, or to take a bus or train to move.

We offer a 15 minute walking distance from the city center (approximately 1200 metres) and a 10 minute walking distance (approximately 800 metres) from our metropolitan centers and around Auckland train and bus stations.

Within these walkable distances, this will mean big changes to the rules on how owners can choose to develop their property, if they wish.

However, it also means options for more housing close to major centers and public transport, where it makes better use of the space we have. And it makes it easier for more people to access the places and services they use every day, without depending on a car.

Having more walking, cycling and public transport options helps reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, urban sprawl and traffic congestion as people use their cars less or travel shorter distances.

Around other suburban centers

In and around Auckland’s other suburban centers – think of these as local shopping streets with shops and services – height and density limits are required to match the level of commercial and community services available in the center .

Auckland’s unit plan already allows for more height and density in and around most of these centers than in general suburban residential areas.

However, to meet this central government requirement, we are proposing a more consistent approach, with increases in height and density limits around a number of major local and urban centers in Auckland that have good transport access. in common, places such as Mangere East, Meadowbank, Milford and Hunters Corner.

This would see townhouses, apartments and terraced housing in new locations or expanding to where they currently exist around these centers as many of these areas already allow for growth.

More three-story houses across the city

With new legislation passed in December 2021, the government is also requiring council to allow more housing up to three storeys on most residential sites in the city.

This will enable more homes, such as townhouses, terraced housing and low-rise apartments, in almost all of Auckland’s suburbs. The legislation also requires changes to council design rules regarding how sites can be developed, as these have now been set by the government.

Exceptions to reduce the height and density of mandatory buildings

The government allows certain exemptions for the mandatory building heights of three and six stories. Called “qualifying questions”, they can be used to reduce building height and density requirements in certain areas where they may not be suitable, such as protecting areas of cultural or historical significance or preventing places at risk of natural disasters.

To use a qualifying question, we must provide strong evidence to prove why an exemption is needed. This does not preclude development in an area, instead these exemptions limit development enough to ensure that what is protected or managed is not compromised by further intensification.

This means we can’t just “reverse” existing protections for an area, but the council can use qualifying questions for things that are important to our city.

Have your say

From April 19 to May 9, 2022, we will be asking Aucklanders to have their say on some of our preliminary approaches to changing Auckland’s Unitary Plan, where we have limited flexibility to make certain decisions.

And, at the end of August 2022, we will publicly notify our proposed plan change to the Auckland Unitary Plan for Aucklanders to submit.

This allows people’s opinions to be considered by an independent panel of experts who will then make recommendations to the council on changes to Auckland’s unit plan.

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