A small number of property owners are preparing to knock down older houses and build some of the taller, high-density apartment blocks that Auckland Mayor Len Brown believes the city needs to help house a million more people.
The Auckland Council has confirmed 13 property owners have already applied for certificates of compliance to demolish their pre-1944 houses before the new draft unitary plan takes effect.
In metropolitan centres such as Albany, Takapuna, Henderson, Botany and Manukau, developers will be able to build up to 18 storeys.
But some of the most dramatic changes will be to smaller "town centres" like Milford, Onehunga and Pakuranga. There, the high streets will be allowed to rise to eight storeys, and the neighbouring residential areas will be allowed four-storey apartment blocks.
Mayor Brown said the council would protect heritage sites, while intensifying residential developments around town centres.
"You won't just have walls of skyscrapers like people are talking about. You will have graduated buildings and it allows for green spaces," he explained.
Developers say they are ready to build upwards as soon as the height limits are loosened. Hopper Developments may renew its bid to build a four-storey apartment block in Orewa, previously rejected by the Environment Court after local opposition.
Hopper was about to sell the land, "war-weary" after losing a 10-year battle to build high-rise apartments in the beach-side community north of Auckland. But project manager Howard Jury said the draft plan's allowance for high rise buildings in Orewa was encouraging.
"The land is still there and if a suitable purchase price isn't achieved we would certainly look at getting on and doing the project ourselves," Jury said.
"The glimmer of light has become a bright light for the first time in a long time."
Developers insisted they wanted to create high-quality modern urban living, not replicate the tenements of Cairo, Baghdad and Hyderabad as doomsayers have warned.
Mark Todd of Ockham Residential Investment said he understood public fear of poorly constructed high-rise dwellings and was dedicated to proving affordable, quality housing was possible.
He had already built three and four-level apartment blocks and had more planned for Auckland - bigger and better, he said.
A four-level apartment block he was building in Grey Lynn would rise to seven levels if the draft plan was current.
"We would have definitely gone higher because the views are so good.
"We had already done two levels of underground carparking so all the foundations are there," said Todd.
He had another three-storey development in Ellerslie nearing completion where one, two and three-bedroom terraced houses would be priced from $300,000.
Todd said build costs dropped if there were more levels and the saving would be passed on to buyers.
He said leaky buildings and poorly-built city fringe developments gave high-density a bad name.
"If you allow people to build high density crap they will do it to make some money.
"If the council is going to allow high density they have to ensure it is quality."
Todd pointed to his recently completed solid masonry buildings in Ellerslie and Kingsland.
"We did those in a recession so we proved it can be done. They are art deco-styled and people love them."
The council said about 1000 people turned up to the Viaduct Events Centre yesterday at an open day to view its plans. It was encouraged by the numbers.
• 7 - Proposed storeys of The Isaac in Grey Lynn, under unitary plan.
• 4 - Proposed storeys for Hopper Development's apartment block, Orewa.