NPS-UD: Update on Auckland Council's Response
By Iain McManus
Auckland Council’s Planning Committee completed a marathon 11 hour meeting on 30 June 2022 to consider public and local board feedback on the Council’s preliminary response to the NPS-UD, along with officer recommendations for the upcoming plan change.
The meeting commenced with presentations from the city’s local boards, many of which argued for the retention of the special character areas within their areas and a reduction in the extent of up-zoning, some leaning on dubious applications of “the precautionary principle”.
The meeting then moved into “confidential” while the committee received legal advice on aspects of the NPS-UD and Council’s response. That advice remains confidential at the time of writing.
The meeting was at various times fascinating, fractious, depressing and strange. Ultimately, the committee resolved to:
- Remove the floor area ratio standard in the City Centre zone (in line with its previous resolution).
- Retain a maximum height limit where one currently applies in the City Centre zone but for most places to increase that limit to 72.5m.
- Apply special height controls within the City Centre where qualifying matters apply, to reduce the permitted height below 72.5m.
- Increase the height permitted in the Neighbourhood Centre zone to 16m (5 storeys) where a centre is surrounded by the THAB zone, subject to any qualifying matters that might apply.
- Confirm the committee’s previous resolution to define walkable catchments as 1200m from the edge of the City Centre zone, 800m from the edge of the Metropolitan Centre zone and 800m from rapid transit stops, subject to review of public feedback on specific catchments and further work to confirm the suitablity of the 1200m distance for the city centre.
- Confirm the committee’s previous resolution to apply the THAB zone to residential areas within 200m of the edge of a Local Centre zone that is both large in size and has high accessibility.
- Confirm the committee’s previous resolution to apply the THAB zone to residential areas within 200m of the edge of a Town Centre zone that is small in size but has high accessibility;
- Confirm the committee’s previous resolution to apply the THAB zone to residential areas within 400m of the edge of Town Centre zone that is both large in size and has high accessibility.
- Delay implementation of the NPS-UD and Medium Density Residential Standards (“MDRS”) within the Auckland Light Rail Corridor until the route and stations are confirmed by the Government.
- Confirm the special character area overlays (where retained – see below) as a qualifying matter justifying a reduction in the intensity of development permitted, relative to that which would otherwise be permitted under the NPS-UD.
- Confirm the retention of the residential and general special character area overlays within a walkable catchment where 75% or more of the properties within the overlay have been given a score of 5 or 6 in Council’s assessment of the overlay, subject to some (unspecified) amendments to address public feedback on the Council’s preliminary response and the possibility of amendments where Council determines the retention of an overlay to have a significant effect on development capacity.
- Confirm the retention of the residential and general special character area overlays beyond a walkable catchment where 66% or more of the properties within the overlay have been given a score of 5 or 6 in Council’s assessment of the overlay, subject to some (unspecified) amendments to address public feedback on the Council’s preliminary response. This item dominated the committee’s discussion with many councillors calling for properties given a score of 4 in Council’s assessment to be counted towards the 66% threshold. That motion was ultimately lost on a 10-11 vote.
- Confirm the retention of the business special character overlays where retained in the Council’s preliminary response viewer and the existing height variation controls in those areas.
- Permit slightly greater levels of development within the special character area overlays. To this end, the committee resolved to:
- Permit the development of a minor dwelling and the conversion of a principal dwelling into two dwellings.
- Provide for a limited range of non-residential activities (such as home occupations, boarding houses, dairies and restaurants).
- Amend the application of the demolition, removal and relocation rule to individual properties based on the contribution they make to the special character values of an area as identified in the Council’s site-specific survey of each overlay.
- Amend the standards for yards and fences to be more enabling.
The committee also noted that:
- Additional qualifying matters relating to locations with significant water supply and wastewater capacity constraints, and areas with significant stormwater disposal constraints, will be presented to the committee for endorsement on 4 August 2022.
- Ongoing discussions with mana whenua may result in additional qualifying matters relating to sites of cultural significance being presented to the committee for endorsement on 4 August 2022.
- Staff were investigating controls to manage the impact of more intensive development on the cultural and visual qualities of the city's maunga and would present that work to the committee on 4 August 2022.
- “Companion” plan changes relation to the Regional Policy Statement, various transport matters and historic heritage places will be reported to the committee on 4 August 2022.
- When resources are available, officers will report to the committee on potential improvements to the design standards in the Unitary Plan on matters not restricted by the MDRS.
Also of note:
- Officers previewed the creation of a new “Low Density Residential” zone to be applied within the urban area where a qualifying matter (e.g. special character) justifies reduced intensity of development compared with that which would be permitted under the NPS-UD or MDRS. This new zone will replace the Single House zone within the urban area, although it would not match the Single House zone in its spatial application (as many areas currently zoned Single House will be up-zoned to Mixed Housing Urban). The Single House zone will be retained (alongside the Mixed Housing Suburban zone) for small settlements outside the urban area (e.g. Clevedon and Maraetai).
- There was a lot of discussion around the ability to include transport constraints as a qualifying matter justifying reduced intensity of development. Officers advised that it would be extremely difficult to satisfy the NPS-UD requirement for a site-specific analysis to support any such qualifying matter. However, many councillors were not wearing that. AT was eventually required to do further work on this.
- Officers advised that it was “almost impossible” to complete an accurate review of the numerous precincts applied under the Unitary Plan by the time the plan change needs to be notified and, therefore, there was a significant risk attached to this work.
- The committee asked staff to report back on the potential to add qualifying matters reducing the permitted height of buildings within walkable catchments where the buildings abut open space and/or residential properties with a lower density zoning.
We will provide a further update following the committee's August meeting if the agenda and minutes are publicly available.