Auckland is expected to gain between 700,000 and a million new residents over the next 30 years and a growth blueprint aims to keep most of them in existing neighbourhoods near transport corridors.
Launching the draft Auckland Plan yesterday, Mayor Len Brown said it aimed to hold 75 per cent of growth inside existing urban boundaries to ensure a compact city.
"We need to focus on building up and intensifying in and around our transport nodes."
At the same time the council wanted to protect the countryside.
A new rural-urban boundary would hold urban spread at a line which the council alone could decide to move when extra land for building was needed.
Fresh land would not be built on until sewers, roads and community facilities were ready.
The alternative was suburban Auckland sprawling over a further 32,000ha of fields - at a cost to the environment and infrastructure.
Auckland now had a five-year reserve of ready-to-go land and a 20-year forward supply of housing land that could be released in stages.
About 6000ha of additional land in Auckland's north and south was under investigation for future housing, industrial and employment growth.
Aiming to make the most of existing civic investments, the plan suggests the next three years' demand for home and business land could be soaked up by intensive development areas.
Priority for planning and investment would go to the city centre, including the waterfront, Hobsonville, New Lynn metropolitan centre, Onehunga town and suburban area, Tamaki town centres and suburban area, Takapuna metropolitan centre, and the satellite towns of Warkworth and Pukekohe.
Other metropolitan centres - Albany, Westgate, Newmarket, Sylvia Park, Manukau and Papakura - would also take a share of intense development.
Asked about population figures, council chief planning officer Dr Roger Blakeley said the whole plan was evidence-based.
Estimates of population growth were sound and had been agreed upon with government departments. The 2006 Census set Auckland's population at 1.3 million, and the Auckland Council estimated it would grow to between 2.2 million and 2.5 million in 30 years.
Total dwellings needed for that growth would rise from today's 507,000 to between 816,800 and 913,000.
About two-thirds of all new dwellings between now and 2040 would be attached to someone else's house or be in low, medium or high-rise apartments.
The plan said the blight of some present infill housing would be prevented by insistence on the best urban design principles, council partnerships with private developers, and using council property to set a good example of quality higher-density living.
The plan lays out where businesses should be located.
Employers & Manufacturers Association acting chief executive Bruce Goldsworthy said the plan gave a sense of certainty by being clear about where business infrastructure would be developed.
Green Party MP David Clendon said it showed a "smart green economy that works for all of us".
The party welcomed the plan's focus on investing in children and young people, economic development opportunities in clean technology and renewable energy and meeting the challenge of climate change, sustainable buildings, good urban design and public transport.
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