Making the Auckland Unitary Plan

Part of our Growing Auckland series

Last Updated : 03 Jun 2016

At every step of the way, special legislation introduced by the government has guided how Auckland’s first ever Unitary Plan would be developed and decided.

The aim was to ensure the Auckland Unitary Plan, the largest planning exercise in New Zealand history, could be shaped by Aucklanders and completed much faster than would typically occur under the Resource Management Act, where it could take 8 to 10 years.

The law made significant changes to the usual practice that councils follow when producing a plan of this type, with differences in the submission, hearings and decision making process.

No council commissioners - an Independent Hearings Panel

Instead of the usual process of council hearings or appointing their own commissioners to hear submissions and make decisions, the special legislation for the Auckland Unitary Plan set up an Independent Hearings Panel.

This is a statutory body appointed by the government and independent of the council.

The council was responsible for preparing and notifying the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan and for running the public consultation and submission process. It then provided all public submissions to the Auckland Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel for the hearings.

Once the council provides the submissions to the Independent Hearings Panel, the Panel gets on with the job of holding hearings and reviewing submissions and evidence on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan.

As part of this process the council, after considering the public’s submissions, agreed its own preliminary positions on different parts of the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan.

These preliminary positions were presented to the Independent Hearings Panel alongside submissions made by members of the public. Under this system the council is treated no differently to any other submitter before the hearings.

Following the hearings the Panel will then make recommendations to Auckland Council about the changes it thinks should be made to the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan.

Widespread public consultation

Over the last five years the Auckland Unitary Plan has been developed through widespread public consultation  

  • 249 public meetings and 21,210 pieces of written feedback on the draft unitary plan
  • 5 days of council meetings on the draft plan to finalise the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan for public submissions
  • 6 month period for public submissions, Auckland's most extensive public submission period
  • 9443 public submissions and 3951 further submissions on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan – with a total 1,493,600 separate submission points
  • 249 days of hearings in front of the Independent Hearings Panel attended by 4317 submitters
  • Over 10,000 pieces of evidence received by the Independent Hearings Panel

What’s coming up?

The Independent Hearings Panel recommendations on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan will be provided to Auckland Council on the 22 July. This means the Panel is effectively recommending an amended Auckland Unitary Plan to the council.

On 27 July the Panel’s reports providing the recommendations and an amended Auckland Unitary Plan will be available on the council website

The council will consider and make their decisions on the Auckland Unitary Plan by 19 August 2016.

All of council decisions on the Auckland Unitary Plan will be made in public council meetings and be available to watch on the council's live streaming service.

  • 22 July - Independent Hearings Panel provides Auckland Council with its recommendations
  • 27 July - Elected Members briefed on the recommendations. They will also be available on the council website
  • 12-18 August – Council makes decisions on the Independent Hearings Panel recommendations
  • 19 August – Council notifies their Auckland Unitary Plan decisions
  • 16 September – Limited appeals period closes


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