Auckland Council has voted against tougher controls to stop big box retail stores opening up close to small town centres.

The case of Bunnings wanting to open a large hardware store at Arch Hill in central Auckland has sparked a debate about the best use of the site, which is zoned mixed use.

Locals believe the mixed use zoning on Great North Rd - the site of the store - is ideal for apartments and small-scale commercial and retail use.

The Auckland Plan committee voted this morning on an amendment from councillor Cathy Casey to make retail stores greater than 450sq m a non-complying activity. It is currently a lesser restricted discretionary activity status in the draft Unitary Plan, which the committee has been wrapping up over the past three days.


Ms Casey said big box retail close to town centres was sucking the life out those areas the council was trying to develop.

"It's time to change the rules," she said.

However, she failed to garner enough support and the amendment was lost 9-11.

Councillor Mike Lee said the Bunnings case was one where planning was not working.

He said relying on light regulations and design rules to modify the development was like "trying to put lipstick on the proverbial pig".

"This(Great North Rd) is a great opportunity for intensive living with a lot of support from the community," he said.

Councillor Sandra Coney said Lincoln Rd in West Auckland was already half a disaster from big retail and was waiting to be a full disaster.