Yard setbacks- what are they about?

All development of a site is affected by setbacks from boundaries or natural features- these are called “yards”. Yards, including front, side, rear, riparian, lakeside, and the coastal protection yard are an important requirement under the Auckland Unitary Plan. Yards require buildings or parts of a building to be set back at a minimum depth from the relevant boundary and are important for architects, designers and developers to consider when designing a development. These are measured at a 90-degree angle from the site boundary.

This blog looks mainly at the impacts of building location and yards, but there are also other restrictions such as those related to earthworks and vegetation removal, that are affected by these yards. You can find out more about what a “building” is in the context of the Auckland Unitary Plan in this blog.

What are yards?

Yards are defined under the Auckland Unitary Plan as:

“The part of a site that must be kept clear and unobstructed by buildings from the ground upwards. Yards are always measured in a horizontal plane and at right angles to the site boundary or other line that substitutes for the site boundary. A yard control is always a minimum dimension unless otherwise stated.


  • eaves of any building and any roof, gutter or downpipe that projects over any yard by not more than 750mm;

  • fire escapes required under the Building Act 2004; and

  • any crop supports structures, artificial crop protection structures, hedges, or shelter belts.”

Purpose of yards:

Yards are one of the Auckland Unitary Plan Standards that development in Auckland needs to comply with. This is because yards serve many purposes, including creating a built character aligning with the relevant zone and providing adequate space for front yard landscaping and services such as power and phone lines. It also ensures a reasonable standard of residential amenity for adjoining sites is maintained.

Riparian, lakeside and coastal protection yards ensure that buildings are set back from lakes, streams and the coastal edge to maintain the water quality and ensure buildings are protected from natural hazards.

Yard setback requirements in different zones:

The yard setback requirements differ, depending on the character and amenity that the specific zones are trying to achieve and the level of intensity of development expected in the zone. For example, in a lower intensity residential zoning, such as the Residential – Single House Zone, the yard setback requirements require a minimum depth of 3 metres from the front yard, and 1 metre from the side and rear yards. Compared to a higher intensity zone, the Residential – Terrace Housing and Apartment Buildings Zone, the minimum depth from the front yard is 1.5 metres and 1 metre from the side and rear yards.

Furthermore, riparian, lakeside and coastal protection yards also apply if your site contains or is located within close proximity to lakes, streams or the coastal edge. These yards are generally larger, and seek to protect natural values of these features, such as water quality, and minimise potential effects related to natural hazards.

How to identify yards on different sites:

Front, side and rear yards are identified differently depending on the type of site your development is located on. For example, if your site is a rear site the rear yard setback requirement applies to all of the site boundaries. In other cases, if your site has road frontage, the front yard setback applies to the part of the site that fronts the road. This means that in a corner site, the front yard setback requirement would apply to two of the site boundaries. It can sometimes be confusing, so if you’re not sure what site “type” you have you could discuss this with your planner or the Council.

When is a resource consent required?

In relation to yards, a resource consent is required if your development does not meet the relevant yard setback requirements of the zone under the Auckland Unitary Plan. These infringements should be discussed with a planner to identify what the potential adverse effects will be, including in relation to character and amenity, and how these can be avoided, reduced, or mitigated. Further discussions with a planner will provide you with more knowledge regarding the resource consent process and enable you to achieve a more efficient resource consent application and application process.

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 and managing the consent process on your behalf. You can contact us on hello@planningplus.co.nz or (09) 427 9966.

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

Mary Zhou is an Assistant Planner at Planning Plus. Mary is a fourth year Bachelor of Planning (Honours) student and has a real passion and drive for all things planning. Mary assists the team with a variety of projects including rural and urban land use, subdivision and feasibility analysis.

Mary is a Student Member of the New Zealand Planning Institute.


As with all our blogs this information is preliminary in nature only and we have used our best endeavors 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.

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