Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Council tones down plans

Small-scale apartment buildings may be more restricted than previously thought.

An example of a three-storey terraced and apartment buildings that could be built in a three-storey subzone. Photo / Dean Purcell
An example of a three-storey terraced and apartment buildings that could be built in a three-storey subzone. Photo / Dean Purcell

The Auckland Council is toning down controversial plans for small-scale apartment buildings in half of suburban Auckland.

Councillors will tomorrow consider a new proposal to place small-scale apartments close to town centres and major transport routes and preserve suburbs for single and terraced housing.

Plans in the council's planning rulebook - the draft Unitary Plan - for apartments in suburban streets caused alarm and the creation of a "grassroots" organisation, Auckland 2040, to oppose the measures.

The plans would have given developers the ability to build to two-storeys and apply for a resource consent to build to three storeys in the mixed-housing zone - covering 49 per cent of suburban Auckland - without neighbours having a say.

The council has responded with a proposal to split the mixed-housing zone into two subzones - a three-storey permitted height limit close to town centres and major transport routes and a two-storey permitted height limit in the suburbs.

Some parts of the single housing zone that allow for one house per 500sq m could be considered for the two-storey mixed-housing subzone.

Officers will be asked to consider controls, such as density, height to boundary, site coverage and neighbourhood character, for the two mixed-housing subzones.

A paper going to the Auckland Plan committee tomorrow suggests making it harder for developers to breach the two- and three-storey heights.

At a workshop last Wednesday, councillors, Local Board chairs and members of the Maori Statutory Board were shown examples in Manukau Rd and Ladies Mile of three-storey terraced and apartment buildings that could be built in the three-storey subzone.

Last night, Deputy Mayor and Auckland Plan committee chairwoman Penny Hulse said the council was doing what it always said it would and responding to feedback on the draft Unitary Plan.

She said the community had come up with really good ideas, including splitting the mixed-housing zone and making it look better with two storeys the norm and three storeys closer to town centres and good urban design controls. "I think we are getting pretty close to a good plan," she said.

Auckland 2040 spokesman Richard Burton was a "bit encouraged" by plans to create two subzones, but said the devil would be in the detail around issues such as density and site coverage. Last week's workshop suggested greater density of one dwelling per 200sq m in the two subzones, subject to controls; and reduced density in other situations.

Mr Burton said the two-storey subzone should be based on the assumption that the housing stock would generally remain with infill and older houses being demolished for townhouses, whereas the three-storey subzone assumed a high degree of replacement of houses. The two subzones needed a different policy and rules approach, he said.

The Auckland Plan committee is also being urged to review the 30sq m minimum dwelling size, which raised fears of tiny "shoebox" apartments.

Another controversial area where the council appears to be softening is on the sensitive issue of volcanic view shafts. After making it possible for developers to push the height boundaries into volcanic view shafts, the committee is being asked to consider volcanic view shafts "clearly overriding zone heights".

- NZ Herald

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