Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Unitary Plan: Auckland building rules axed

Minimum dwelling sizes, density limits and other development controls have been deleted from the new recommended rulebook for Auckland.

Also gone are minimum sizes for main living rooms and bedrooms, minimum ceiling heights, separation between buildings and requirements for a front fence.

Parking rules have been removed or moderated to respond to improvements in public transport and transport technology.

So long as developments meet core standards, like height and height to boundary, people will have a lot of flexibility for new housing.

The standards apply in three new housing zones where intensification varies from two-storey terraced houses to five- to seven-storey apartments.

The deletion of a number of development standards has been made by the independent hearings panel that developed the final recommendations for the rulebook, or Unitary Plan.

In a report on residential zones, the panel said to address matters raised by Auckland Council, Housing New Zealand and other submitters the residential provisions need to be more enabling to provide more houses.

It has recommended deleting controls like minimum studio apartment sizes of 30sq m in the central city and 40sq m elsewhere, and one dwelling per 200sq m on sites less than 1000sq m in the mixed housing suburban zone where there is a 2-storey height limit.

These controls were put forward in the council's proposed Unitary Plan in 2013.

The panel also said the council's approach in the proposed plan in urban design terms was too prescriptive and "will not assist in providing a supply of residential dwellings and the costs (both money and in terms of quality outcomes) outweigh the benefits".

There was debate, the panel said, about not having "shoe box" apartments, but developers argued the size rule was not needed as the market, in combination with other development standards, would ensure appropriately-sized dwellings.

Developers also argued there was a significant cost imposed with specifying minimum sizes.

Ockham Residential spokeswoman Helen O'Sullivan, whose company sought the removal of all development controls other than core standards and landscaped area standards, said standards did not necessarily guarantee quality.

"Everyone knows what a good outcome is because they stand in it and say 'yes it works'.

"We are very close to our market and know what people will find acceptable or consider to be unliveable," O'Sullivan said.

Asked about other developers who may choose to cut corners and be less design conscious, she said the market had changed.

"It will not accept the type of thing in Hobson St in the 1990s. The market requires (quality) and developers know that," she said.

The urban design panel review system for developments of five or more units was still in place, O'Sullivan said.

The panel accepts for large-scale developments of five or more dwellings and all developments in the terrace housing and apartment buildings zone consent will be required with a design assessment.

Richard Burton, of Auckland 2040, said the plan was too focused on development at all costs and the loss of development standards could see the return of things like the "sausage flats" built in the 1960s.

He said there would be no design checks on many residential developments because people could build up to four dwellings in the mixed housing suburban and mixed housing urban zones as of right without a resource consent.

"There will be very few developments of five or more dwellings. The vast majority of developments will be for one- to four dwellings with no design controls," Burton said.

He said reliance on wholesale development of Auckland's residential areas to meet future growth targets was unrealistic and the reality a lot different.

The difficulty and cost of acquiring sufficient land, cost of demolition and building costs would make most development unaffordable.

"Insufficient provision has been made for greenfield development along Auckland's north to south transport corridor," Burton said.

Development standards deleted:

• Density controls in residential zones
• Minimum dwelling size
• Minimum ceiling height
• Minimum size of main living rooms/bedrooms
• Minimum frontage and site width
• Maximum building length
• Separation between buildings on the site
• Front fence requirements(side and rear retained)
• Remove or moderate parking rules
• Garages (percentage of front facade and setbacks)

Core development standards that must be met

• Height
• Height in relation to boundary
• Yards

Recommended zoning plan for central Auckland (Waitamata region)

Recommended zoning plan for Auckland

- NZ Herald

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