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Auckland Council points to surging housing consent numbers particularly on 'brownfield sites' as evidence the Unitary Plan is working and 'helping deliver a more compact city'

Auckland Council points to surging housing consent numbers particularly on 'brownfield sites' as evidence the Unitary Plan is working and 'helping deliver a more compact city'

The Auckland Council is giving its Unitary Plan the credit for surging housing consent numbers particularly on 'brownfield sites' in Auckland.

A report prepared for the council's Planning Committee by council Chief Economist David Norman says "there is significant evidence" to suggest the sudden resurgence in consenting activity in Auckland is the result of the Unitary Plan beginning to work.

"These findings provide evidence that counter the view that relaxing development restrictions on the fringes of the region, where few amenities exist, is the best way to reduce the housing shortfall," Norman says.

"People by and large prefer to live closer to jobs, infrastructure that works, public transport, schools, shops and other amenities.

"As a result, developers are showing a preference for delivering development in brownfield areas," Norman says.

Mayor Phil Goff says it’s clear that the Auckland Unitary Plan is a success and is delivering major change for Auckland’s future development.

"I welcome the 27% increase in new dwellings consented in Auckland. It is helping to bridge the shortfall of houses needed to cater for our rapid population growth.

"The Unitary Plan is to helping deliver a more compact city ensuring Aucklanders are living closer to transport links, employment centres and public amenities," he said.

Planning Committee Chair, Councillor Chris Darby said that in less than two years since adoption of the Unitary Plan, the market was responding to the need for more housing in existing urban areas. This is reversing the trend of the last seven years for building predominately in greenfield areas.

“People want to live in connected communities and are choosing to live closer to rapid transit with better access to jobs, schools and amenities such as parks and shops that brownfield areas provide.”

After a protracted development process, the Unitary Plan became operative in part on 15 November 2016. It up-zoned thousands of brownfield (existing urban) properties across the city, allowing for intensification as well as growth in greenfield areas. Altogether, the Plan provided capacity for up to one million new dwellings although at the time, only an estimated 422,000 were deemed to be commercially feasible for development. This feasible growth was anticipated to be spread across brown and greenfield areas in a roughly 2:1 ratio.

Norman's report showed that amidst the recent surge in consents, brownfield areas dominate the growth with 90% of all growth in new dwellings consented in the 10 months to May 2018 (since the upturn began in August 2017) is in brownfield areas where the Plan delivered the bulk of potential for greater development.


"The trend towards green and away from brownfield growth has been reversed," Norman's report says. 

"The share of total new dwellings consented in brownfield areas in the 10 months since August 2017 has grown from 62% to 69%. This has reversed a trend of declining brownfield development as a share of building consents over the previous seven years."

iii) More intensive building typologies enabled by the Plan are being adopted: Terraced houses and apartments were 54% of new dwellings consented in the 10 months to May 2018. In the 10 months to May 2016 (i.e. the comparator 10-month period before the Plan was passed), it was just 37%.

Norman said in the urban areas, "the desired compact city is emerging", with around 66% of new dwellings multi-units, "precisely what the Plan aimed to deliver".

He said in addition, a "disproportionately large number" of dwellings are being consented in rapid transit network catchment areas– defined as living within 1500 metres of a train station or northern busway bus stop.

"This highlights that people value rapid transit access, and that development enabled by the Plan is responding."

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Hang on, wasn't it the independent panel who created the unitary plan because Auckland Council's attempt didn't allow anywhere near enough density and had too many heritage zones, view shafts, etc.

Yes and it was National that pushed that process while apparently doing nothing for housing /Sarc

yes, they did work hard on this aspect and hopefully it will help alleviate the massive housing shortage.

I thought it was standard RMA process?

So you attribute nothing of the outcome to National?

I suppose if you want to cherry pick the “good stuff” that miraculously happened during their tenure then sure.

miraculously ? wasn't it the "Stick" shown by National to ACC which made them do it after stalling for 5 years ??.. and now they are putting a spin and call it the best thing since sliced bread !!!!!! ACC has NO Shame

Please remember to use that word when you see a KB unit built in 2 years

yep fair point. The proposed unitary plan originally proposed by the council was woefully inadequate..

I went to Auckland last week for the first time in ages, and all I can say is "Good Luck!". Whether it's brown, green or (pick a colour) development, it's a mess; logistically, socially and environmentally. I thought Christchurch was bad, given all the earthquake issues etc, but at least they have an excuse. Auckland has none. Stick with the Unitary Plan and if that is heralded as 'success', as I say, Good Luck....

What is wrong with Christchurch.
One of the most liveable cities and opportunities aplenty.
Leaves Auckland for dead if you are looking for quality lifestyle

'Tis the festive season in Christchurch for landlords. Walk down any street and you'll see the decorations are up. For Lease Navidad!

Without a land tax I can't see land amalgamation working, which is needed for dense housing. No doubt there are proxy buyers trying to buy adjacent titles and hold outs trying to extort developers.

That's exactly what rates are. Rating will force the consolidation.

If you have a little 2 bed house on a piece of land now zoned 16 story high rise your rates are going to make your eyes water. But relax hopefully a friendly developer will be along to write you a big check, or at the lease a friendly specuvestor who will take the medium term position to hold out longer for a bigger check.

I think the new plan is actually not that bad. Its pushing development along rail and bus corridors so occupants can walk easily to transport. A lot of peoples nice westerly views will end up being the back side of apartment buildings at some stage but that is progress I guess.

For me, it wasn't the unitary plan. It was the huge rates bill.

Only a few short years ago Chris Darby was calling the North Shore: "turtle city". ie Too covered in housing and concrete. Now look at what he says!

There are too many moving parts to building activity to correlate UP with overall consenting. This is simply AC cheerleading, pom-pom shaking, and Plannerz self-justification.

People want to live in connected communities and are choosing to live closer to rapid transit with better access to jobs, schools and amenities such as parks and shops that brownfield areas provide.

Possibly, perhaps, maybe, mayhap - the poor sods have little other choice? Fuel tax? NZD droppery increasing living costs? Rent reviewed? 2002 Mitsi has expired somewhere in the bowels of Spaghetti Junction?

All this 'urbane living' is well and good, but how much are most of these two bedroom townhouses and apartments selling for? north of 800K!

They could be selling for less, but whenever there is a chance of affordability breaking out Auckland Council cuts off supply. When it looked like affordable housing was taking hold in Takanini, Phil Goff rushed in to action to defer further development until beyond 2038.

Exactly, to be making these claims is completely disingenuous and shows they are ideology driven rather than evidence driven.

But they should be commended for writing all that and NOT mentioning the word affordable once, that takes some skill.

But this flies in the face of what Central Govt. have promised, both in affordability and relaxation of the urban fringe.

It's going to be a battle of 'The Two Ideologies', Phil Goff as Saruman and Phil Twyford as Gandolf the White (yes it's alright to be white).

The Sky City Tower makes a fitting eye of Sauron, and Rangitoto as Mount Doom.


Actually, this study proves that if a restriction is lifted on land at Auckland City it does result in a massive surge in construction. Removing of brownfield restrictions resulted in large increase in brownfield. If Phil Twyford kept his election promise to remove the RUL, then Auckland would have a large overall increase in all building and the housing crisis would end. We can have affordable housing within 5 years.

Unfortunately Phil Twyford has had a year to keep his promise, but has yet to do so. Seems less Gandalf, more Grima Wormtongue - another lying politician.

But I thought you hated sprawl?
Remove the RUL and that's exactly what you will get. Absent of infrastructure and planning you get an absolute mess.

I'm all for reducing land cost at the margin, but you have to realise that in the case of Auckland there is a substantial trade-off in terms of actually having a city which is actually functional.

Or perhaps your biases as a developer are showing.

I do hate sprawl, it is environmentally destructive and wasteful and causes homelessness and allows horrendous rent seeking.

The Auckland Unitary Plan is creating sprawl exurbs at Orewa, Huapai, Warkworth and Pukekohe. Also the AUP has removed the RUL restrictions from all other rural towns. How can this design be "actually functional", as anything other than a recipe for sprawl?

Removing the Auckland RUL will allow development at Okura, Albany, Swanson, Takanini - all of these places are much closer than the AUP allows. Removing the RUL would decrease our sprawl to Houston like levels - from insanely bad to merely bad.

Ideally it would be nice if Auckland Planners could seize the initiative and create a plan that is averagely environmentally responsible by building our growth close to our city. But that would require raising the Auckland Planner competency to mediocrity.

I am a concerned citizen who worries about greenhouse gas pollution, that is my bias.

Not at all.

The Warkworths and Pukekohes of this world are distinct economic areas. You confuse them as being predominantly related to the Auckland Isthmus .
They are their own economic hubs. Thus planning for their residential expansion is not at all equivalent to the general urban sprawl.
Although I have no evidence for this, I would hazard to assume that the predominance of residency in these areas falls to persons who work within the area. The majority of people aren't commuting. In fact I doubt very few are.

Urban sprawl occurs with low intensity development around the periphery of an economic hub.
Don't conflate Auckland and Pukekohe (and similar) to justify your position that the AUP is incentivising sprawl.

Make a commute to Pukekohe after work tonight. Have a chat to the people on the train or go to a pub in Pukekohe, ask people how many of their new neighbours are commuting.

Or don't. Even if you wish to retain your bias, you are saying a plan that encourages "Pukekohe (and similar)" to undertake massive urban sprawl somehow discourages massive urban sprawl - that is nonsense.

But that's just anecdotal.
How about I go and talk to everyone I see at the local supermarket, instead? An equally pointless exercise.

No. Wrong.
They aren't incentivising sprawl in Pukekohe - current planning is encouraging density (the majority of now available greenfields is mixed urban, not single house). Like the rest of Auckland.

The problem you have is that you look at future greenfields sites and assume them to be inherently sprawling in nature. That isn't the case at all and a very poor assumption.
Sprawl is inherently low density, periphery based development. You can't make the argument that that is what is happening in the satellite areas, when current planning is so incredibly weighted towards non single house zoning.

Can I not ask you to go and look with your own eyes? Maybe you could try reading the Unitary Plan for Pukekohe (note transportation links)? Or looking at rail commuter numbers using Pukekohe station? Or NZTA reports?

Probably you will not do any of these things.

Treating local urban centres as if they are multiple and discrete, due to continued willful personal ignorance or absurdist Auckland type planning has been tried before:

"Historically, then, the entire region was built on a kind of “suburban” assumption: that individuals and communities could best thrive by creating multiple, discrete centers of political, economic and social life, rather than focusing on a single dominant core (as happened in most other American cities)." - Sprawl Hits the Wall: Confronting the Realities of Metropolitan Los Angeles.

I think the discrete mini-city development that grew up around LA led to sprawl.

But you disagree.

In the year ending December 2017 there were ~170k boardings (similar alighting) at the Pukekohe station.
Take that by 275 (250 work days plus and extra 25 or so to normalise) that gives us probably around 600 passengers per day.
Not huge numbers, given the ~30k resident population of Pukekohe. Plus, you have no way of knowing where that 2% of the population are alighting.
Also, high rail and public transport ridership is correlated with density, not sprawl. Sprawl is a product of individual transport modes.

local urban centres
Pukekohe is not a local urban centre - that's the point. It is >50km from the Auckland CBD.
Do people commute from there? Yes.
Do people also commute from Hamilton? Yes.
So why stop at Pukekohe? - Hamilton by your definition is also increasing the sprawl of Auckland if you ignore local economic considerations.

Is the primary economic activity derived from commuting to the Auckland CBD? No. It's deriven by the proximate industry.

The LA Sprawl occurred because they allowed it to be filled in.
Nowhere in the AUP is the provision to link Pukekohe or Warkworth but huge corridors of low density development.

The reason LA became sprawl is because lots of little cities all grew up in parallel and people commuted between all of them.

According to the 2013 census figures 90% of Pukekohe workers commuted by car and 35% of them were working in Auckland (in 2006 it was less than 30%). This is a swelling car driven, polluting, stinking, massive sprawl forced upon us by Phil Goff and his lunatic planners.

Refer to Commuting patterns in Auckland: Trends from the Census of Population and Dwellings 2006–13

Use this.

The problem is nowhere near as bad as you make it out to be.
The commuting pattern is weighted heavily to adjacent areas for Puke and Warkworth. Not the Auckland CBD.

“People want to live in connected communities and are choosing to live closer to rapid transit with better access to jobs, schools and amenities such as parks and shops that brownfield areas provide.”

The Chris Darby's Auckland Unitary Plan is to create disjointed mini-cities with poor access to rapid transit and jobs.

Norman said in the urban areas, "the desired compact city is emerging", with around 66% of new dwellings multi-units, "precisely what the Plan aimed to deliver".

Meanwhile not in the urban areas an incredible spread of the greenfield has opened land from beyond Warkworth to Pukekohe, which is not compact - in fact the Unitary Plan creates more sprawl than Houston.

Norman is making a highly conditioned statement to pretend a city of massive sprawl is compact.

I don't know why they just don't employ bloggers as urban planners.

Seems you guys know far more than anyone else.

I don't know why they just don't employ more PR flacks to help the urban planners.

Seems they can spin far more, and faster, than anyone else.

After all, they have managed to polish a turd into a luvverly little shiny pearl, here....

Is that your approach with this little gem?
Put a bit of PR spin on to make a statement that is categorically incorrect.
There are too many moving parts to building activity to correlate UP with overall consenting.

I think they are claiming causation, not correlation.
And, you most definitely can correlate UP rules with housing supply elasticity. You just control for the other factors.
This is something the urban literature has been prettty big on since GG (2002) - the impacts of zoning restrictions on new supply.

I am endorsing the stated policies of our Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and our Ministry of Transport. Perhaps I am becoming a little impatient about them implementing their stated policies, but hopefully they will soon implement to reduce sprawl and end the housing crisis.

I understand that many may need to go into the office but I feel like the old 9-5 is a bit of a throwback to the times of factory workers. I can't help thinking that more flexible working hours and some working from home would help take the strain off traffic and public transport. But it seems like many companies are reluctant to change, whether this be out of distrust of employees or just habit.

I don't like being compacted.

Front cover of the Western Leader today, Fletchers advertising terraced houses in Swanson starting at only $819,000.

So yep, compact houses much cheaper aye?

Pay like the house is made out of gold and get to hear your neighbours having sex next door...

Given how the pseudo monopoly of flechers have been doing lately there is probably about $200k of mismanagement baked into those prices.