By Aaron Schiff 08/08/2016

Auckland Council has published the geospatial data for the version of the Unitary Plan recommended by the Independent Hearings Panel. I thought I’d use this to take a quick look at the recommended plan’s provisions for protection of things like character and heritage.

In the Herald on Friday, Don Stock wrote about the Auckland Unitary Plan (UP) as recommended by the Independent Hearings Panel:

It has ignored the principles of democracy and natural justice by denying communities any say in the radical upzoning introduced outside the public consultation process. It has removed any requirement for good design in developments. It has removed any protection for old buildings. It has removed minimum sizes for apartments. It has removed requirements for off-street parking.

Shamubeel Eaqub has already called bullshit on the “undemocratic” claim. The other claims are mostly not true as well.

As well as defining zones where various types of residential and commercial development are allowed, the recommended plan defines a number of “overlays” that restrict building and other activities in certain areas. Each of these overlays comes with its own set of restrictions. In many areas there are multiple overlapping overlays, creating multiple restrictions.

The red areas in the following map show many of the overlays defined in the recommended UP for the whole Auckland region:


Here’s a close-up of the central area:


For example, the UP defines “viewshafts” protecting views of volcanic cones and the Auckland museum. Within these (mostly central) areas, there are height restrictions on building:


Another set of overlays protects “special character” and “historic heritage” in certain (again, mostly central) areas by restricting demolition and development:


There are also a significant number of overlays protecting the natural environment, including “significant ecological areas”, “outstanding natural character”, “outstanding natural features”, “outstanding natural landscapes”, and the like, throughout the region:


And there are overlays covering airport approaches, national grid corridors, buffers around quarries, and places of significance to Mana Whenua:


There are some other overlays but I think the above are the most important. While the protections defined by each overlay are different and some are more restrictive than others, it’s simply not true that the recommended UP allows development to occur unchecked. There are restrictions that will affect both intensification and expansion of the city in many areas.

If you’re interested, the R code I used to make these maps is here.

0 Responses to “Auckland Unitary Plan – mapping building restrictions”

  • Having followed the whole hearing process on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan, and having witnessed how both mediation and individual hearings on topics were very clearly dominated by representatives of large businesses, a number of developers, utility companies, construction companies, Auckland Council itself as “submitter”, and otherwise by Central Government agencies or corporations such as Housing NZ, MoBIE, and the likes, I agree with Don Stock.

    Community groups and residents associations, and certainly the few individual submitters, who bothered to participate, did in the end have damned little input into the final outcome. They were of course allowed to present their submissions and some evidence, but the Panel did not give much merit to these, and ignored most of it, and in the end gave in to pressure from the better resourced lobbyists I mentioned further above.

    Once when the focus was on issues with “develop-able” and “feasible” housing for Auckland, and once a group was appointed to prepare and conduct computer analysis and projections on this (constantly changed and further developed during all this), it became clear that the Panel gave priority to this, rather than to any other concerns there were, e.g. sustainability issues, re resource constraints due to water availability, infrastructure issues, community concerns re heritage, existing amenities and so forth.

    It was ignored that continued immigration and residential and business development will inevitably cause serious environmental issues, and the enabling of business and housing development were given priority. It does indeed appear that the Panel was to some degree panicking, and failed to take a more balanced view, hence the concerns of residents-, heritage- and other groups were dismissed, which will have raised serious enough issues with natural justice.

    We will have to see who will challenge what Council will notify now, and how this will happen, but I am sure that some legal challenges will soon go before the courts, which they should, as the whole Plan will simply lead to more new issues for Auckland in the future.

    Talking for instance about volcanic viewshafts, they allow rather high buildings as they were and are, and the Panel has not taken a final and clear view on them, suggesting Council do more work on clarifying which viewshafts should be maintained or perhaps changed.

    Allowing for instance building heights in Newmarket up to more than 70 metres is bound to lead to significant visual and other changes, some of which will not be welcome by residents, present and future. There are many other issues, and we will get damned little in affordable housing, and definitely also new poor structures, the future will tell, but I have read and heard enough to have no doubt about it.