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What’s the Unitary Plan doing to our residential areas?

The introduction of the Auckland Unitary Plan (Unitary Plan) saw the “upzoning” of large areas of Auckland, with the aim of accommodating 60% - 70% of urban growth within the existing urban area. This has provided the planning framework to allow for traditional “quarter acre sites” to be redeveloped with multiple houses, townhouses and apartments. There have been arguments that New Zealanders don’t want to live in this type of housing, preferring our more traditional single house on large section development pattern. But is this what’s happening now?

What do the results say?

A recent report on this to the Auckland Council’s Planning Committee, shows that it took around nine months for the Unitary Plan to have an effect on the type and location of dwellings consented. Since August 2017, total dwellings consented are 27% higher than the previous year, and more intensive housing types (in particular apartments and terraced houses/ townhouses) account for 54% of all new dwellings consented. This is compared to 37% two years ago.

Most of this is happening around rapid transport routes, which is one of the outcomes the council wanted. Council records show that almost all the growth (90%) in consents has been in “brownfield” areas rather than in “greenfield” (new development) areas. Again this an outcome the Council sought, and is clear evidence that the changes in development patterns sought by the Unitary Plan are starting to take shape.

This is actual evidence that despite some people’s initial concerns, development is happening within the existing urban limits, and people are choosing to live in these areas, in different houses and on smaller sections. It also reflects the reality that while land in greenfield areas may be cheaper, it is also more expensive to develop (for example all the roading and other infrastructure is required to be installed. Auckland Council’s Chief Economist has estimated this to be around $200,000 per dwelling unit once local infrastructure is also taken into account), and that often people choose to live closer to work, public transport, schools and community facilities and are happy to “trade this off” with a more compact dwelling or section.

What does this mean for me?

This is welcome news for people who own sites that have been “upzoned” by the Unitary Plan. It indicates that there is demand for a different housing type in Auckland, and that developers are starting to redevelop sites inline with the Unitary Plan.

Large areas of Auckland have been rezoned, and in many cases owners aren’t aware of what they can do with their sites now. There’s still a mind shift needed from what’s there now, to what could happen and what the current development potential of a site. There is still a lot of investigation needed, but in a lot of cases the fundamental planning regime is in place for further development. This is the first, and often biggest, hurdle already overcome.

Where to from here?

If you’ve read our blogs on the Lifecycle of a Resource Consent, you will know how important we think upfront investigations are. There is no substitute for doing your homework early on, getting the right advice and fully understanding costs and risks. Before you start working on your resource consent application, give our team a call and we can discuss a feasibility analysis with you. This can save you costs and stress further on in the development process.

We also have other useful blogs on cost, development in different zonings and how to find out basic information on your property that you might like to look at.

If you have any questions, please get in contact. We specialise in resource consents and pride ourselves on giving you accurate and realistic advice, and taking the stress out of the process for you. Get in touch to discuss your proposal with one of our friendly team.

Hannah Thomson is Director of Planning Plus and has over 17 years of resource management experience working in both local government and the private sector. Hannah has a wide range of experience including commercial, rural, residential and coastal development and subdivision on small to large scales and appearances at both Council and Environment Court as an expert witness for mediation and hearings. Hannah has assisted Councils with policy development and has also assisted private individuals with submissions to Council.

Disclaimer As with all our blogs, the information detailed here is general in nature and meant as a preliminary guide only. This should not be substituted for your own investigations or use of your own professional’s. Planning Plus is not liable for any errors or omissions.

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