Unitary Plan Changes Explained

September 2022

Read Time: 3 Minutes

What are the Changes to the Auckland Planning Rules?

Significant changes to Auckland's planning rules have been approved, opening the door for higher density housing to be built across the region.

Auckland Council has approved a proposed plan change to the Auckland Unitary Plan (Plan Change 78). The change is in response to the central government's new Medium Density Residential Standards (MDRS), requiring high-growth councils across New Zealand to introduce new standards that will ease planning rules for what can be built without resource consent.

What Will Changes to Planning Rules Mean for Aucklanders?

For many Auckland property owners, the changes mean they will now be allowed to build up to three homes of up to three storeys on their site, such as townhouses and terraced housing. The Mixed Housing Urban zone which enables three-storey development will become the most common zone.

How Significant are the Auckland Unitary Plan Changes?

The changes to the Unitary Plan are significant for Auckland. The National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) requires the Auckland Council to enable buildings of six storeys or more within walking distance (walkable catchments) from the city centre, Auckland's 10 metropolitan centres and public transport stations.

How Will the Changes Affect Zoning?

The plan change is proposing to change some of Auckland's residential zones. Most residential properties in Auckland's urban areas are proposed to come under one of three zones:

  1. Terrace Housing and Apartment Buildings Zone (now allowing for buildings of six storeys or more)
  2. Mixed Housing Urban Zone (now allowing for three buildings of up to three storeys)
  3. Low-Density Residential Zone (limited to two storeys, see below)

View the planning maps showing the proposed changes

What are the Other Key Changes?

Further key changes include:

  • More apartment buildings and terrace housing are proposed to be enabled around other suburban areas where there is good access to public transport.
  • Some exceptions or 'qualifying matters' will be put in place. The council will be able to limit building heights and density requirements in some areas where intensification is not appropriate, such as areas of cultural or historical significance.
  • A new Low-Density Residential zone is proposed to provide a lower intensity of development up to two stories in areas where qualifying matters limit building heights and density.

When Will the Changes Take Effect?

Although the new Medium Density Standards have immediate legal effect from 18 August, the process to decide the details of how the NPS-UD policies will be implemented has just begun. The proposed plan change is currently open for submissions, until 29 September 2022. Anyone can make a submission.

An independent hearings panel will then review all submissions and make recommendations to the council on changes to the Auckland Unitary Plan over the next 12-18 months.

Find Out More

 Find out more about the planning changes here or contact the Crockers team for further advice.


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