Michael Barnett is quite right. There are many plans that the Auckland Council is required to prepare by legislation. And the timeframes are tight.

Few people question the importance of planning. As the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland said, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there". The council's plans for Auckland are to ensure that we are crystal clear about where we are going, and to make sure that we get there.

But it is not as complicated as it may seem.

The Auckland (Spatial) Plan is the 30-year vision and strategy for Auckland. It provides the over-arching framework for all other plans. It begins with Mayor Len Brown's vision that "Auckland will be the world's most liveable city". It paints a picture of what you can expect to see in Auckland in 2041.

Auckland will be a place that puts children first, and where quality of life means that every citizen has the opportunity to reach their potential. It will be the economic powerhouse of the nation, driven off innovative high-tech and clean technology export industries.


Auckland will be renowned for its beautiful environment, the Hauraki Gulf, coast and islands, harbours and volcanic cones, and for the protection of its land-based and marine ecosystems. In the past 30 years it will have lifted the architectural beauty of its built environment and urban design to match its stunning natural environment, and protected and maintained its cultural and built heritage.

It will celebrate its ethnic diversity, cultural richness, and the strength and vitality of its communities. It will have become a world-class arts, culture and heritage centre.

Auckland will have at last fixed its transport system, with a major shift to use of public transport, cycling and walking, and motorists and freight trucks enjoying uncongested motorways and arterial roads.

The draft Auckland Plan will be released on 20 September 2011 for public consultation, including the opportunity for submissions and hearings. All Aucklanders will be encouraged to contribute their ideas, through written or on-line submissions. Decisions on the final plan will be made by the council before Christmas.

The Unitary Plan, under the Resource Management Act 1991,replaces the district plans of the previous seven cities and districts in the Auckland region. It incorporates the rules and policies to implement the Auckland Plan. It determines the look and feel and liveability of Auckland that will make it the world's best. It covers issues of urban, rural and coastal form, public open space and infrastructure, heritage protection, land and water use and effects, buildings and structures, natural resources, hazards and climate change, air quality, protection of indigenous vegetation and landscapes.

The draft Unitary Plan will be notified for consultation by December 2012.

The Long Term Plan sets out the council's proposed services, projects and budgets over the next 10 years, including the services of the Council-Controlled Organisations. It includes asset management plans, funding and financial policies.

The draft Long Term Plan will be completed in January 2012 for public consultation, and adopted in June 2012.

The Local Board Plans are the three-year plans of the 21 Local Boards. They set out the priorities for the next three years and beyond, including recreational facilities, bustling town, local and neighbourhood centres, and building our economic prosperity. The consultation period closed on Monday 8 August. Submissions will be analysed and Local Boards will hold hearings. Local Boards will adopt their plans by 31 October 2011.

The council is well aware of the need to demystify its planning documents and make them clear, simple, and user-friendly. It also wants to ensure that its plans are aligned. This will include the formal release at the same time (20 September) of the draft Auckland Plan and documents under its umbrella: the Draft City Centre Master Plan, Draft Waterfront Master Plan, and Draft Economic Development Strategy.

The Auckland Unleashed discussion document on the Auckland Plan, launched on 23 March 2011, received 8,500 submissions: on-line, on paper and including postcards from 4,000 young people. That reflects the Mayor's commitment to inclusiveness and the council's wish to listen to the voices of all Aucklanders.

The council has adopted the principles of "simple, fast and bold" for all planning. That is because of the urgency the council and the public feel to tackle the major challenges that Auckland faces.

* Dr Blakeley is Chief Planning Officer, Auckland Council