Shaping the big decisions on how our city grows

Publish Date : 14 Mar 2022
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Central government’s stronger role in planning for how Auckland grows by requiring more building height and density will mean big and at times complex changes for our city in the years ahead.

Auckland Council must respond to the government’s National Policy Statement on Urban Development, which requires growing cities like Auckland to enable buildings of six storeys or more within walkable distances to our city centre, 10 large metropolitan centres and around train and rapid busway stations.

The government’s new Enabling Housing Supply Act also requires the council to enable more medium-density housing of up to three storeys across most Auckland suburbs, without the need for resource consent. There are new design standards for residential developments for things like height to boundary requirements and the size of outdoor spaces.

While the majority of the government’s changes are mandatory, where we do have some limited scope to make decisions, we are working hard to make sure they will meet the needs of our growing city.

We must publicly notify our changes to the city’s planning rule book - the Auckland Unitary Plan - by 20 August 2022, as directed by the government.

Helping shape the decisions

Aucklanders will have two opportunities to help shape some of the changes to our city's planning rules.

In April 2022: Aucklanders can have a say on some of the council’s proposed changes to the Auckland Unitary Plan. We can only ask for feedback on things the council can decide - not on the government’s mandatory changes, such as enabling six-storey buildings in walkable catchments.

From August 2022: Aucklanders will be able to make a submission on the publicly notified plan change. This is an importance second opportunity to have a say allowing for their views are considered during the statutory decision-making process by an independent panel of experts.

Process for changing the Auckland Unitary Plan

Central government has introduced a streamlined decision-making process with the Enabling Housing Supply Act, to speed up implementation of its changes for more housing density.

This is different to the usual plan change process under the Resource Management Act and only relates to the intensification plan change required by the government. This is set out below: 

  • Auckland Council's proposed plan change to the Auckland Unitary Plan is publicly notified (by 20 August 2022) for people to make a submission. Some of the government’s new medium density residential standard housing rules apply immediately following notification to building and resource consents*.
  • An Independent Hearings Panel (IHP) reviews all submissions and holds hearings with those people and groups who submitted.
  • The IHP makes recommendations to the council on the intensification plan change to the Auckland Unitary Plan. The IHP recommendations can be outside the scope of submissions made on the provisions.
  • Auckland Council must decide whether to accept all the IHP recommendations, or to accept some and reject others and provide an alternative recommendation.
  • If the council accepts an IHP recommendation, the relevant parts of the Auckland Unitary Plan become operative following notification of the council’s decision. There there is no ability to appeal these decisions to the Environment Court.
  • If the council rejects an IHP recommendation and provides an alternative recommendation, then the Minister for the Environment makes the final decision to accept or reject it. The relevant parts of the Auckland Unitary Plan become operative following notification of the Minister’s decision. There is no ability to appeal these decisions to the Environment Court.

More information will become available at various stages of this decision-making process. 

* The rules that incorporate the government’s medium density residential standards will have immediate legal effect from notification where:

  • land is within an existing residential zone and within one of these four residential zones of the Auckland Unitary Plan - single house, mixed housing suburban, mixed housing urban, or and terrace housing and apartment buildings;
  • land is not within an area where qualifying matters apply;
  • land is to be used for up to three houses;

Business zone: nothing applying to business land will have immediate legal effect from public notification of the council’s proposed plan change, such as within city centre, metropolitan centre, other centres

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