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Developing land- where do you start?

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

Are you thinking of developing your property? Maybe you want to subdivide, add another dwelling, or redevelop the whole site? There are so many things to think of and it can feel overwhelming. Where do you start?

In this blog series, we’ll be covering off some of the “must knows” in planning terms, before you get too far with your development plans. In this blog, the first in the series, we’re looking at zoning and overlays. In future blogs we’ll be discussing site constraints, access and parking and development capacity.

The Auckland Unitary Plan (Operative in Part) is Auckland’s main statutory planning document. There are different rules and standards that apply in different “zones” and “overlays” and these restrict or enable certain types of development.

But what are zones and overlays?

Land areas are split into “zones” in district plans like the Auckland Unitary Plan. The sites zoning is the main classification controlling how different land areas can be used, developed or protected.

In Auckland, some land is also affected by “overlays”. Overlays generally apply more stringent controls than the underlying zone does. You could need resource consent under both the zone and overlay rules.

You can find out here what zone and overlays (if any) apply to your property.


The zones under the Auckland Unitary Plan are spatially mapped and identify where specific uses and activities can occur, and what types of activities require resource consents. These rules also identify the type of resource consent- the “activity status”. For example, controlled activity, discretionary activity and non- complying activity. These activity status’ work in a hierarchy, with a controlled activity being activities expected, up the hierarchy to non- complying activities which are not generally expected in that zone.

For example, having more than one dwelling in the Single House Zone is a non-complying activity (meaning resource consent is required, and the activity status is near the top of the hierarchy). Up to three dwellings in the Mixed Housing Urban Zone is a permitted activity, not requiring resource consent, on the basis that it complies with all relevant standards and other rules.

Our blog here provides more information on zoning under the Unitary Plan and what each zone means in terms of the development that is enabled.


In the Auckland Unitary Plan, the purpose of overlays is to manage the protection, maintenance or enhancement of particular values associated with an area or resource. An example of an overlay is the Significant Ecological Areas Overlay. This overlay identifies significant indigenous vegetation areas or significant habitats of indigenous fauna.

Overlays may restrict things like:

· The location, size and height of buildings,

· The earthworks permitted,

· The vegetation removal that’s permitted,

· The extent of alterations and additions.

If your site is located within the Significant Ecological Areas Overlay, there are restrictions related to earthworks and vegetation removal. In the Special Character Areas Overlay, careful consideration is required when making alterations and additions to an existing dwelling, to ensure the special character is maintained.

This means that in overlays, the triggers for needing resource consent can often be lower. This doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to obtain resource consent, but there will be specific issues you need to consider when designing your development. Your planner can guide you on this, and it’s important to get this advice upfront to avoid costly redesigns later on.

For more information on the Unitary Plan Overlays and what they might mean for your development, please see our blog here.

Need help with your development?

Want to know how your property’s zoning and overlays affect your development plans? With over 70 years of combined experience, our team will guide you on what they mean, and how to design your project.

We also work with other specialists, including surveyors and engineers, to manage the whole process for you from initial conception right through to the granting of resource consent.

You can contact us on or 427 9966. We look forward to helping you on your resource consent journey!

Mary Zhou is a Planner at Planning Plus®. Mary has been part of the Planning Plus team since 2021 and has a real passion and drive for all things planning. Mary has experience with a variety of projects including rural and urban land use, subdivision and feasibility analysis.


As with all our blogs this information is preliminary in nature only and we have used our best endeavours to ensure it is correct at the time of writing. It is not intended to substitute for your own investigations or obtaining specific advice on your proposal from professionals. Planning Plus LtdTM is not liable in any way for any errors or omissions. © Planning Plus Ltd 2023

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