31 Jul 2022

Auckland council saving estimated $1m housing intensification consultation

6:18 am on 31 July 2022

Auckland Council has dodged a million-dollar bill for alerting residents to incoming changes to housing intensification.

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Raising land prices and building costs is tempering development in Auckland, and other big centres throughout the country. Photo: 123rf

By 20 August, all of the country's largest councils must let local people know about plan changes linked to the government's [https://environment.govt.nz/what-government-is-doing/areas-of-work/urban-and-infrastructure/housing-intensification-enabled-by-rma-amendment-act/#guidance-on-implementation

new development standards].

Some of the new rules - that open the way for three houses where until now there has been just one - are mandatory and not up for debate.

But these have occasioned other potential plan changes that must be opened up by councils for submissions in August.

"Given Auckland's size, doing this by post would have cost an estimated $1 million. However, we are always looking to reduce costs to ratepayers and so have chosen to do this using our existing rates bills and e-rates notices, at no extra cost to ratepayers," Auckland Council said.

The matters where councils can have some say is over exempting some sections or areas from the intensification rules if they qualify according to "cultural, historic or ecological significance" factors, Colliers said in a report in May.

The intensification move in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch, and Rotorua Lakes is controversial.

Law changes last December introduced Medium Density Residential Standards (MDRS) to let people build-up to three houses on each section, each up to three storeys high, without needing a resource consent, whether in a new subdivision or a built-up neighbourhood.

Some expectations are for "huge" residential intensification, but that is being tempered by rapidly rising land and building costs, and the cooling housing market generally.

"Constraints impacting the development sector will see construction delays becoming more common with consent issuance likely to fall from recent highs," Colliers International [https://www.colliers.co.nz/-/media/files/anz/new-zealand/research/residential/auckland-residential-development-report-1h-2022.ashx?la=en-nz&bid=cb295f9f9e4643619a4d1e6ceb84f433

recently reported about Auckland].

The impact on different suburbs is expected to vary widely, though the changes could push up land prices, commentators say.

Some urban planners and architects worry there has been little emphasis on building quality in parallel with intensification, and that hemmed-in homes will cut out sunlight.

Others say that in-building will put too much pressure on already stressed utilities and services like stormwater, sewage, roads and parking.

Auckland Council wants to include special character areas that it selects - such as those characterised by old villas - as a qualifying matter that wins exemption from intensification. Its proposal on that are part of what is opened up for submissions in August.

The council already had almost 8000 submissions back in May, on proposals like these, and on its wider response to the Government's National Policy Statement on Urban Development, which is set to apply from August 2023.

This statement stops councils hindering development by banning height limits of less than six storeys around a city centre, metropolitan centres and train or bus stations.

Councils have been debating the distance this ban should extend out by.

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