Auckland councillors are being urged to defend the historic fabric of the city from the latest directive from central Government for greater intensification.
Devonport Heritage says Labour and National's edict to allow up to three homes of up to three storeys will turn the city into an unliveable and ugly city.
"This will be a green light for developers to put up cheap, badly designed buildings that will be miserable to live in and miserable to look at," chairwoman Margot McRae said in a letter to councillors.
Labour and National last month joined forces in a rare act of unity to tackle the housing crisis with a plan to see as many as 105,500 extra new homes built in less than a decade.
They say the Housing Supply Bill will "cut red tape" and allow up to three homes of up to three storeys built on most sites without the need for a costly and frustrating resource consent.
Under the plans, homes can be built within 1m of a neighbouring side and rear boundary and developers can seek resource consent for even greater intensification than the rules allow.
It is already common practice for developers to seek permission to build homes that don't comply with all the rules in the Auckland Unitary Plan and the council has flexibility to approve the work, frequently without giving neighbours and the public a say.
The latest plan to boost housing follows an earlier initiative by the Government last year directing high growth cities like Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch to reset their plans for apartment buildings of at least six storeys close to city centres and along transport corridors.
McRae said the latest attack on local democracy is a political stunt that seeks to blame councils and planners for the housing shortage, and ignores work in the Auckland Unitary Plan to protect heritage areas.
"We believe if three-storey developments are allowed everywhere in the city it will mean the eventual ruin of our historic areas. Old villas, small cottages and bungalows will be squeezed beside 11m concrete block housing developments and the continuity and character of these historic areas will be lost," McRae told councillors.
The council has started street-based surveys on about 30,000 homes in "special character areas" to see if they qualify for exemption under the National Policy Statement for Urban Development(NPS-UD) plan for six-storey apartments in high growth cities.
A spokesman for Environment Minister David Parker said the work being done by the council under the National Policy Statement would apply under Labour and National's Housing Enabling Bill, subject to some checks.
Town planner Lauren Hawken said people do not realise the significant effect the three-storey rule will have on communities and on infrastructure like parks and services.
She said the proposed rules of building up to 11m in the current single house zone is "just horrific" over-intensification of areas characterised by suburban properties.
Auckland Council is already allowing more intense development than what is permitted as of right in the Unitary Plan in suburban areas zoned for medium density townhouses and apartments, Hawken said.
The council's planning committee is due to consider the latest housing directive from Labour and National on Thursday.
Committee chairman Chris Darby said resources are still being pulled together across the council, Watercare and Auckland Transport to understand the impact of the changes, which, he said, were hatched in secret in Wellington and dropped on Auckland without warning.
Darby is on the record saying the bill will only make a small dent in the number of housing consents and the real impediments to building more houses is a lack of investment in infrastructure, supply chain challenges and a shortage of skilled workers.
He said the three-homes, three-storeys rule would not only apply in leafy inner-city suburbs but in outlying areas of the single house zone, like Snells Beach, Maraetai, Clarks Beach and Patumahoe.
"Dispersed density into such areas spreads infrastructure spend so thinly and inefficiently that it weakens the development uptake in the existing higher density areas identified in the Unitary Plan.
"Government's anywhere anytime development mantra resembles the reactive response of National's ill-fated Special Housing Area legislation. It's not remotely planning," he said.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has been cool on the latest directive from the Government, saying he backed the objective of building more homes more quickly, but this needed to be balanced against retaining the city's character and heritage.
"It is also concerning that while the announced changes focus heavily on quantity, they do not adequately address the need to guarantee the quality of built outcomes. Aucklanders are generally accepting of the need for density but are increasingly concerned about the potential for poor design outcomes," Goff said.
In recent months, Goff has credited the Unitary Plan, the planning blueprint for the city since 2016, with "soaring" numbers of building consents to boost housing supply and reduce unaffordability in the city.
"Building consents issued, around 20,000 in the last year, are the highest in the city's history. In August this year, 70 per cent of dwelling consents issued were for multi-unit dwellings, such as apartments and terrace housing," he said.
Act leader David Seymour has said Labour and National are in danger of failing to deliver on their promise of more housing, while creating division and resentment in the community.
"They need to focus on infrastructure and pull the zoning changes back," he said.