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Landscaped area, permeable area, impermeable area- what’s the difference?

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

When developing land, it’s important to look at the proposed landscape area, permeable area and impermeable area. The Auckland Unitary Plan controls relating to these play an important role in the creation and maintenance of the character and amenity of an area, and controlling stormwater runoff. We have a look at these in turn below, with our focus being on development in Auckland and under the Auckland Unitary Plan (AUP(OP)). We hope that this blog may be of use to developers, architects or designers, seeking guidance on these somewhat overlapping and often confusing controls.

Landscaped area

Landscaped areas contribute to quality living environments, and ones which are consistent with the planned built character of the zone. This means that the level of landscaped area required will vary depending on the zone your site is located in, and the outcomes sought in each specific area. The landscaped area can include landscaping on the site, improving amenity for future residents and people living on adjoining sites, along with landscaping proposed with the road frontage of a property which contributes to the streetscape character.

Landscaped area includes a range of permeable (allows water to penetrate) areas and some impermeable areas (does not allow water to penetrate). Below are some examples of landscaping:

  • Areas of grass, trees, shrubs and ground cover plants greater than 5m2.

  • Non-permeable pathways not exceeding 1.5m in width.

  • Permeable artificial surfaces (no more than 50% in the front yard).

In the Auckland Unitary Plan, landscape area includes ornamental pools, open jointed slabs, brick, gobi or blocks where one paver does not exceed 650mm and terraces or uncovered timber decks less than 1m above ground. However, the total land area occupied by these features must not exceed 25 percent of the landscaped area within the subject site. These features are recognised to contribute towards the landscape quality of a site. Large areas of decking or paving could lead to a poor site outcome, and so are controlled in Auckland.

Landscape area cannot include any area that is used for parking, manoeuvring or loading of vehicles. Landscaping excludes any area included within the definition of building coverage and any non-permeable pathway greater than 1.5m in width.

Be mindful that when calculating the landscape area, building coverage and impervious area within a site, this will not necessarily add to 100 percent. This is because some areas can fall under multiple definitions (for example non-permeable paving 1.5m in width will be included within the calculation for landscaped area and impervious area). This can be confusing, and lead to incorrect information being shown on plans. Make sure you are familiar with the Auckland Unitary Plan definitions when designing your development and finalising your plans.

Permeable Areas vs Impervious areas

In basic terms, permeable surfaces allow water to penetrate, and impermeable areas do not. A site will be made up of both of these surface types, for example grassed and planted areas will be permeable, and driveways and concrete pathways will be impervious. Below are some examples of what would be included in “impervious areas”:

- Roofs,

- Paved areas including driveways and sealed/compacted metal parking areas,

- Patios (unless designed of specific materials),

- Sealed and compacted metal roads and

- Layers engineered to be impervious such as compacted clay.

Areas which are excluded from the Auckland Unitary Plan definition of impervious area includes the following:

  • Grass and bush areas,

  • Gardens and other vegetated areas,

  • Porous or permeable paving and living roofs,

  • Permeable artificial surfaces, field or lawns

  • Slatted decks,

  • Swimming pools, ponds and dammed water,

  • Rain tanks.

It is important to ensure that the impervious area calculations for your development are correct, as infringing the related Auckland Unitary Plan Standards will require resource consent. Where proposals exceed this standard stormwater mitigation measures such as the installation of stormwater detention tanks may be required. You can discuss this further with your planner, who will assess this as part of your resource consent application.

What if I infringe these Standards?

The landscaped area, building coverage and impermeable area Standards vary for each zone; the zone Standards are in fact important defining features between different zones and the character and amenity that they’re each trying to achieve. It’s important that you discuss any infringements with your planner, to ensure it is appropriate in that specific location.

If your development infringes theses Standards, you will require resource consent. You should discuss this with your planner.

Need more advice on your development?

If you require assistance with a resource consent application for your development, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Planning Plus. Planning Plus can assist from the initial investigations and concept through to the preparation of the resource consent application. You can contact us on or (09) 427 9966.

We also have a lot of other blogs on our website that can help you with your resource consent journey-


As with all our blogs this information is preliminary in nature only and 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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