10 things you need to know about new housing rules in Auckland

Publish Date : 14 Mar 2022

In April, Auckland Council will be asking Aucklanders for feedback on some changes to the Auckland Unitary Plan – our city’s planning rulebook – to allow for more housing at greater heights and density.

So, what are the changes? And why are they needed? Here’s a quick run-down of the top 10 things you need to know about what’s happening:

  1. In the past two years, central government has introduced a new National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) and the new Medium Density Residential Standards (MDRS) which require councils to change their planning rules to enable more higher-density housing.

  2. The NPS-UD requires Auckland Council to change the city’s planning rule book – the Auckland Unitary Plan – to enable buildings of six storeys or more within walkable distances of rapid transit stops, the city centre and our 10 large metropolitan centres (Newmarket, Manukau, New Lynn, Sylvia Park, Botany, Papakura, Takapuna, Henderson, Albany and Westgate).

  3. Auckland Council’s proposed walkable distances are a 15-minute walk (approximately 1,200 metres) from the edge of the city centre and a 10-minute walk (approximately 800 metres) from the edge of the 10 metropolitan centres and around train stations and rapid busway stops, such as the Northern Busway.

  4. In addition, the MDRS requires councils in New Zealand’s five fastest-growing regions – Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, and Christchurch – to enable medium density housing of up to three storeys across most of Auckland’s suburbs without needing a resource consent, including terrace housing and low-rise apartments.

  5. We must implement the government’s new rules for more housing (NPS-UD and MDRS) and publicly notify changes to the Auckland Unitary Plan for public submissions by 20 August 2022.

  6. Some exemptions are allowed to modify three-storey and six-storey building heights. Called ‘qualifying matters’ they’re the characteristics within some areas where building heights may be limited, such as for protecting sites of cultural, historic, or ecological significance or to avoid development in areas with natural hazards.We can use a qualifying matter only if we can provide robust evidence to justify having an exemption to building heights.

  7. The council has identified some special character areas as a qualifying matter. We’re proposing a balanced approach to ensure some areas of special character are protected while also delivering on the government’s strong direction to enable more housing for current and future Aucklanders. Within walkable catchments, only areas with high quality special character value are to be protected to enable more housing density close to jobs, shops, services, and public transport. Outside of walkable catchments, areas that continue to have special character values are to be protected. Some existing areas have not retained their special character value and it’s proposed that these areas will change to support more housing density.

  8. Aucklanders can get involved in two ways:

    • During April to May 2022, we’ll be seeking feedback from Aucklanders on some of the changes to the Auckland Unitary Plan where the council is allowed to make some limited decisions. 

    • From August 2022, Aucklanders will have an important second opportunity to haver a say by making a submission on the publicly notified changes to the Auckland Unitary Plan so their views can be considered during the statutory decision-making process. Anyone can make a submission.

  9. After submissions have closed, an Independent Hearings Panel (IHP) will consider all submissions and hear from people who submitted. The Panel will then make recommendations to the council on the changes it thinks should be made to the Auckland Unitary Plan.

  10. Auckland Council must decide to accept or reject the IHP recommendations, but if we reject a recommendation it then goes to the Minister for the Environment to make the final decision.

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