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Maximising Development- Making the most of your land

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

Are you planning to develop your property? The first questions that come to mind may be “How many houses can I get on here” or “How can I make efficient use of the land?”. Answering this question is more than a paper calculation looking at how much land you have- there are many other factors that come into play, and these are very site specific.

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 and resource consent application. In our last two blogs, we discussed the implications of the site’s zoning and overlays and features on development potential. You can find them here and here. In this blog, we’ll discuss some other factors that can affect development capacity and your yields.

Maximising development

Maximising development is an important consideration when designing your land development project. There are however other elements that you should also think about to achieve a good outcome and create a high- amenity living environment for future owners. A high- amenity design often results in increased demand, and comparatively higher sales prices- people are usually willing to pay more for a development that creates high quality spaces for them to live in, and spaces that meet their needs.

With increased demand and popularity of infill development, the Auckland Unitary Plan (Operative in Part) (AUP(OP)) includes provisions to ensure an acceptable level of on-site amenity for future residents is achieved. There are different rules and standards applying to each zoning, and different triggers for needing resource consent.

These rules can generally be thought of as a minimum standard- depending on your site and your target market you may need to design your development to provide more- more outdoor space, two outdoor spaces, garden areas, car parking, increased privacy or more storage for example. These can make your development more attractive to purchasers. In our opinion, you should be designing your project to create a high- quality development, not designing a project specifically to avoid resource consent triggers. There are, however, limits to this, and you should discuss these with your planner.

Maximising development is a balance between your specific site, and who your target market is. Trying to get as many units on your site as possible isn’t always the best or most cost- effective option. In this week’s blog we’ll talk about site shape, orientation, privacy and outdoor living areas and how these factors can impact on development capacity. In our next blog, we’ll be discussing transportation issues.

Site shape

The shape of your site is one of the biggest factors impacting development design. This includes the layout, orientation and overall capacity that can be accommodated. Development on sites that are of unusual shapes can be challenging and require more creative building design to achieve a high-quality amenity and efficient use of the land.

There may be parts of the site that are not suitable for building due to the location of boundaries and the shapes that result. The site may be too narrow to accommodate a typical townhouse type design, or to wide (resulting in potentially dark interior spaces of future dwellings) requiring a more bespoke design.

A good architect and your planner can help guide you on development options.

Site orientation and sunlight access

Sunlight access is another important element of development design. Habitable rooms such as living rooms and bedrooms should be orientated towards the north as much as possible to optimise access to sunlight. This helps create spaces where people want to spend time, entertain, and allows them to utilise passive heating. North facing rooms have solar gain for much of the day throughout the year, and eaves can assist with minimising overheating in the hotter summer months.

On the other hand, secondary or service spaces including garages, bathrooms, toilets, storage rooms and staircases can be positioned to the south.

Maintaining an adequate distance or horizontal setbacks between neighbouring buildings (on the same site or adjoining sites) is crucial to manage potential obstruction of sunlight access. In areas where there is reduced sunlight or daylight, increasing the number or size of windows, or adding skylights, can improve the natural lighting conditions.

The shape and orientation of your site can impact on development yield. Balancing these constraints with ensuring suitable orientation and sunlight access into the new dwellings, can mean that a lower number of dwellings is required. This could mean however that one or more of the dwellings could be larger, have a larger or secondary outdoor living area, additional car parking etc- these features all add value and could help to offset the reduced dwelling yield.

Outlook space and privacy

The design and placement of dwellings and building floorplans should be carefully considered to minimise privacy concerns and overlooking effects between proposed dwellings or from neighbouring dwellings. Each habitable room should have an ample outlook area from windows to ensure a sense of space. This can be achieved by providing sufficient separation between dwellings and careful consideration of the locations or orientation of rooms.

Privacy can also be achieved through landscaping, fencing and the use of screening. Different options are available depending on the style of the development, the number of levels involved and the location of development on adjoining sites.

Privacy can be very important to some purchasers, with high value placed on privacy both inside the dwelling (in particular bedrooms and primary living areas), and outdoor living areas.

Outdoor living space

A good design outcome should include high- quality private outdoor living spaces which could include patios, balconies or decks. An outdoor living space should have a functional size and shape- enough space for people to use it for entertaining or relaxing outside. Any storage, or utility areas (such as clotheslines or heat pump) should be located separate from the designated outdoor living area.

The location of the outdoor living space is also important, it should face the north to maximise solar access, particularly during winter. To improve the indoor and outdoor flows of the development, an outdoor living space should have good connections to the main living area.

Again it’s important to know who your target market is. What type of outdoor living space will they be looking for and how will they use it? A professional couple for example is likely to value and use an outdoor living space differently to a family with young children. Knowing your target market and designing for them, and your site constraints, is important.

The Auckland Unitary Plan sets out minimum outdoor living space requirements- this isn’t the goal, this is a minimum level to provide an adequate level of usability. In some cases, you won’t be able to comply with this, and resource consent will be required. However, in most cases you can design a development to comply and exceed these minimum standards and provide a higher quality outdoor living space for future residents.

Want to know more?

Developing a site to achieve high-quality design outcomes is not just simple calculations but one requires specific assessment and analysis. A planner will guide you through the development design process, and help you get the best outcome for your land.

If you have a project in mind, get in contact. You can contact us on or (09) 427 9966 to discuss your proposal with our experienced team.

Claire is a Senior Planner at Planning Plus and has 6 years of experience in resource consenting. Claire has been involved in various projects which include the preparation and assessment of resource consents for residential developments and subdivision consents.

Claire holds the qualification of Bachelor of Urban Planning (Honours) and is an Intermediate Member of the New Zealand Planning Institute.

In addition to her planning expertise, Claire is also fluent in English, Mandarin and Cantonese.

DISCLAIMER: The above is a general discussion on indicative resource consenting costs in May 2022. The figures quoted are indicative only and are not GST inclusive. Fees are subject to change at any time. This indication of costs should not take the place of an official quote, your own investigations or without first obtaining specific specialist advice on the cost components involved in a specific project related to a particular site. Planning Plus takes no responsibility for the accuracy of the above figures. © Planning Plus Ltd 2023

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