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Plan calls for denser, bigger Auckland

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auckland_skyline.jpgAuckland's houses will grow upwards but the city's boundaries aren't coming down, according to the proposal for the city's long-term planning rulebook.

Auckland Council on Wednesday revealed the recommendations it's been given about the layout of the city's Unitary Plan, which will dictate what can be built and where for at least a decade - and more density and an bigger, but still present, city limit have come out as key themes.

Presenting the report, Deputy Mayor Penny Pirrit told reporters the plan aimed to add space for 420,000 new homes to Auckland over three decades, with space for 131,000 planned for the next seven years alone.

But 270,000 of those dwellings are expected to come from increasing zoning density.

Compared to what the council originally proposed, the panel has recommended single home properties make up 22 per cent less of Auckland's total long-term housing, while three-storey homes should make up about 48 per cent more and apartments 25 per cent.

Central Auckland in particular will face intensification, with the amount of land being used for single homes in central suburbs falling by 43 per cent compared to what the council originally had in mind.

Parts of the North Shore will also faces density significantly greater than suggested by the council.

These changes are likely to face opposition from home owners who successfully lobbied the council to revoke proposed up-sizing earlier this year and say intensification threatens the character of their suburbs.

Ms Pirrit said the panel's recommendations had landed somewhere between what the council had recommended and greater intensity requested by Housing New Zealand.

The advice is the product of two years of meetings and 13,000 public submissions collated and considered by an independent panel of specialists.

But while both the Labour and National parties have pressed the council to drop the city's rural-urban limits to open up more land for housing, the panel has stopped short of canning the boundary.

However, it has recommended the limit be stretched to fit nearly a third of Auckland's growth over the period and have allowed for more flexible changes.

The boundary will no longer be part of the regional policy statement and instead be covered by District Plans.

That means instead of requiring a zone change at either the regional council or ministerial level, developing land outside the boundary will only require a resource consent application to a local council.

Other changes include the removal of requirements for a portion of new homes to be "affordable", removing blanket minimum apartment size requirements, and reducing some protections for homes built before 1944.

A number of areas on the city's fringes, including some in the Waitakere Ranges, would be rezoned from rural to urban under the plan.

Councillors will now debate the recommendations from August 10 to August 18 and announce whether they have accepted the report the following day.

But the government has already warned that if the council fails to deliver sufficient measures to free up more land and allow for higher density housing, it could step in to do it itself.

Council staff have also warned that delaying the process would leave the city without a working plan.

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