Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Panel paves way for shoebox living

Recommendations to Auckland Council include deleting restrictions on minimum dwelling sizes.

Shoebox apartments could be back in Auckland after they were banned in 2007.

A new rulebook for the city that envisages significant apartment living has recommended no minimum size for apartments.

A proposal by Auckland Council for a minimum size of 30sq m has been deleted by the independent hearings panel in final recommendations on the rulebook, or Unitary Plan.

Council and other submitters argued minimum sizes are necessary to ensure space and amenity for residents.

Instead, the panel was swayed by developers who argued minimum size apartments were not needed as the market and other development standards would ensure appropriately sized apartments.

The term "shoebox apartments" was coined in the 1990s and early 2000s when apartments as small as 12sq m sprung up in central Auckland.

In 2007, the former Auckland City Council, responding to concerns about such apartments and poor-quality urban design, introduced a minimum size of 35sq m.

As well as doing away with minimum dwelling sizes, the independent hearings panel has recommended the deletion of density limits, 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.

Developments will still have to meet core standards, such as height, height to boundary and yards.

In a report on residential zones, the panel said the provisions need to be more enabling to provide more housing capacity.

It was acknowledged by all parties, the panel said, that good quality residential and urban design outcomes needed to be achieved.

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

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.

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 buildings such as the "sausage flats" from the 1960s.

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

Councillors decide on the panel's recommendations next month.

- NZ Herald

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